A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experiences creating single-topic Tumblr blogs. This got me thinking about news organizations using Tumblr, and what they’re getting out of it.
Dan Schneider, Denver Post social media news producer, was kind enough to talk about the paper’s Tumblr blog, its goals and just how unique its Tumblr readership is.
-Daniel B. Honigman
When did you start the Denver Post’s Tumblr? What prompted you to do so?
We started our Tumblr in April of 2011, in part because we were aware of some other news Tumblrs, and in part because we’ve been pioneers on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and other social platforms and wanted to continue that trend of experimentation.
What do you see as the purpose of the Tumblr? Do you post the same stories you post on either Twitter or Facebook?
For us, Tumblr is about reaching an audience that we think is unlikely to find us otherwise. While lots of Tumblr users are on Facebook, they may not be as engaged on Facebook as users who aren’t also on Tumblr. Also, there’s less crossover with Twitter (our other truly strong social effort) than with other services. Add that to the demographic uniqueness of Tumblr and we suspect that a sizeable fraction of our readers on Tumblr aren’t finding our news any other way. In part it’s a brand-building effort — getting our name in the consciousness of those who might not see it otherwise. In part it’s an effort to keep our foot in every door that might eventually be a thoroughfare for our brand.
How often do you post? How do you decide what to post?
Mostly I post when I get the chance. Sometimes it only happens a few times a week. I try to let Tumblr guide my choices. I’m a Tumblr user myself, though mostly a student of its phone-photography stars, so I’m somewhat in tune with the tastes and trends of Tumblr as a whole. Along with that, I’ve asked our Tumblr readers what they’d like us to post on Tumblr. I try to choose things that I think have a possibility of viral growth, and things that are relevant and timely and of potentially national or international interest. And I try to mix it up and not just post the same types of things over an over. While I’ve been doing this for most of a year, I feel I’m still in a learning phase with trying to pick content that will get a lot of notice and engagement on Tumblr.
What do you know about the folks that are “loving” or re-blogging your Tumblr posts? Are they local? How much overlap is there with your followers/fans in other networks?
We know that a lot of locals follow our Tumblr. I’ve visited hundreds of their own Tumblr pages and seen where they’re from, what they post and reblog, etc. We know there’s a lot of spam/robot/junk accounts, too, just like on Twitter. We suspect that the overlap is less than with our other social efforts, and other studies indicate that Tumblr users seek out news on the web elsewhere less than average.
What kind of traffic are you getting from Tumblr referrals? Are people clicking through? Does it compare yet with what you’re getting from, say, Facebook, Twitter or Reddit?
I can’t give you any specific numbers on the traffic Tumblr is generating for us, but it’s modest. The click-through rate is not amazing, but the payoff is still good. In my opinion, it’s still worth the efforts we put in because the clicks through are generally high quality (time on site, pages per visit, etc.). It does compare with Reddit, but still lags behind Twitter and far behind Facebook.
Do you have any plans to expand your Tumblr presence? (e.g. create other blogs, single-topic blogs, reporter-specific Tumblrs)
We have two Tumblrs right now; we don’t have any plans to create new Tumblr blogs that the online team would be responsible for, but would be happy to help reporters or section editors that had an idea for Tumblr.
All in all, how would you evaluate your Tumblr experience? What have you learned from using it?
I’d say my Tumblr experience has been great. We’ve picked up a few good news tips from Tumblr and had some great response to things that didn’t have a lot of news value or success in other arenas. I’ve definitely learned more about picking news people will chuckle at and pass on out of the stream, and I think I’ve learned a lot about our Tumblr readers and their news habits (Brian Stelter’s “the news will find me” quote comes to mind) that will be increasingly characteristic of all our readers as social and mobile gain ever-increasing speed in their dominance of digital content consumption.
A lot of folks are starting to look at Pinterest as well as a way of clipping articles and photos to share with a slightly different community? What are your thoughts on news organizations using Pinterest? Any preference to stream vs storyboard-based lifestream platforms?
We’ve had a hard time, like many news organizations, thinking of a way to get value from Pinterest with news content. The majority of opinions I’ve seen agree with the notion that it would be good for features departments — your food critics, travel writers, fashion editors and so on — and I think that’s probably right, at least for now. I definitely think it’s a platform to experiment with, and I’ve been thinking of ways we could ‘break in’ to that network from our newsroom. With news consumption where it is, the industry as a whole should be embracing every possible avenue, in my opinion. My personal preference, if you’re comparing Tumblr to Pinterest, is a Tumblr-style platform. That has to do with how I use it and what I expect to be sharing, though. Pinterest has a tendency to look cluttered to me, but that hasn’t stopped me from spending several long sessions digging through the pins and even repinning a few things.