The mini-kerfuffle stirred up by the revelation that Pinterest was modifying user’s pins to reflect Amazon affiliate links made me realize that a discussion about doing something similar must have taken place at Tumblr at some point.
Affiliate links and Tumblr seem like a natural fit for each other. Tumblr, just like Pinterest, has an active community dedicated to fashion, crafting, cooking and other categories that dovetail quite nicely with selling products.
Pinterest got a smack on the wrist for not revealing what they were doing with links. Tumblr could not only reveal the links, but offer to share the revenue with users. Tumblr’s recent steps into monetization have been baby-shaped, like their Highlighted Posts feature. I don’t know what their spreadsheets say about Highlighted Posts, but I can’t imagine they expect to see more than $10 million from it in the next couple years.
$10 million is a lot of money, but Tumblr’s got to answer for the $125 million they’ve raised so far at a $800 million valuation, and Highlighted Posts aren’t going to pass the grade on their own.
I’m not arguing that Highlighted Posts are a bad idea. I think Tumblr is showing a willingness to diversify their revenue stream and not rely solely on advertising, which is an obvious choice for a company that gets 15 billion page views a month. But ads could also be the quickest route to douchedom and user revolt, which Tumblr has strenuously avoided. Affiliate links, by contrast, are unobtrusive and a relatively pleasant way to generate revenue. They won’t make as much as ads. But they could join Highlighted Posts and premium themes in Tumblr’s attempts to make serious money.
And those 15 billion page views? They’ve got to be driving a ton of traffic to shopping sites.
EDIT: Updated page view stats to use newer numbers.