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Tumblr's Role in Reversing Yahoo's Display Ad Decline

User base up nearly 50% in 2013, extending potential reach for Yahoo advertisers

Tumblr continues to gain popularity in the US, with the number of users increasing 46.2% in 2013, totaling 13.7 million internet users, according to new figures from eMarketer – our first-ever forecast of Tumblr usage.

Usage of the Yahoo-owned social blogging platform will increase by nearly another 25% in 2014, according to our estimates, totaling more than 17.1 million internet users this year. Growth in the number of users who access their Tumblr accounts each month will taper off into the single digits by 2017, when the user base totals 22.8 million users, or 12.0% of all social networkers in the US.

Tumblr's users are highly concentrated among internet users in the 18-to-24 and 25-to-34 age groups, which represent 52.2% of users who regularly log in to the platform this year. By 2018, about 12 million people who access Tumblr regularly will be concentrated in these two age groups, or roughly half of all users on the platform.

After Tumblr's billion-dollar acquisition by Yahoo in 2013, questions have hovered around the site's value to the internet giant, and whether its youthful user base can inject life into Yahoo's declining display advertising business. Yahoo's display ad revenues overall decreased 7% in Q2 2014, according to the company, and eMarketer estimates that its share of US digital display ad market will fall to 5.8% this year, down significantly from 9.2% share in 2012.

Meanwhile, Facebook's share of the US digital display market rose from 14.8% in 2012 and is projected to hit 21.5% this year, according to our projections, while Twitter had only 1.5% of the digital display market two years ago, but is expected to more than double its share by the end of this year, increasing to 3.5%.

While most social networks require users to be logged in to see and interact with advertising, anyone can view Tumblr ads. Our estimates for Tumblr users include those who log into the platform on a regular basis, so this figure represents the number of blogs on which Yahoo's advertisers can publish as well as it does audience size.

Since many Tumblr users run several blogs at a time, the platform's reach has greater potential than the user number might imply. Yahoo has been quoted saying that the average sponsored post is reblogged 10,000 times, so if the company is able to work with more of Tumblr's most influential bloggers to host ads, the platform could become a boon for ad revenues, especially on mobile.

“Because Tumblr's user base is not directly correlated with ad views, slowing growth is not a bell tolling for Yahoo's demise,” said Martín Utreras, senior forecasting analyst at eMarketer. “At the same time, Tumblr is one more 'if' for Yahoo that has yet to bear fruit, and its influence on any reverse for Yahoo's slipping advertising market share still remains to be seen.”

eMarketer bases all of our forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all our forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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