Tumblr is finally offering its writers a way to make money off their work: charging a subscription.
The 14-year-old blogging platform is starting to add the ability for writers to put their posts behind a paywall. The feature, called Post Plus, lets creators offer a $3.99, $5.99, or $9.99 per month subscription, which will give readers access to any posts they decide to designate as for subscribers only. For now, the feature is available in a “limited beta” for select creators only.
The formula sounds a lot like what Substack offers — a blog and an easy way for writers to charge for it — minus the whole emailed newsletter component. Facebook is also starting to test the waters in this area and is starting a subscription newsletter product called Bulletin.
While Tumblr is still a big network, the platform has been shrinking. It now gets 11.3 million daily posts, according to Tumblr’s press information page, down from 14.8 million this time last year, and 67.7 million this time in 2012, according to archives of the page. Tumblr struggled during the shift to mobile, and it later stalled after being purchased by Yahoo in 2013 and Verizon in 2017.
Automattic, which runs WordPress.com, bought Tumblr in 2019, but it hasn’t done much with the service since. It’s hard to imagine a paywall feature, for a site that is often used for pseudonymous fan blogging, will be what brings people back. But it’s a step toward making the platform a more flexible option for writers and gives existing ones another reason to stick around. The network is now highlighting its continued adoption by younger users, saying that just about half of its users are part of Gen Z.
A wide launch of the feature is planned for this fall, a Tumblr spokesperson tells The Verge. Tumblr will take a 5 percent fee from subscriptions, which is competitive compared to Substack’s 10 percent cut. If readers subscribe on iOS or Android, though, those platforms’ 30 percent app store fees will come out of what a creator gets to keep.