The 6-year-old startup has told The Verge that readers will see up to 4 ads each day. The ads will be mixed in with a users other subscriptions and look and feel like the other legit posts on the blog network. They already have several advertising customers signed up, including ABC, GE, Pepsi, and Warner Brothers. You can see one of the ads at right; it's from GE and shows an animated GIF of a jet engine.
Tumblr is promising that the ads will be of a higher quality than your usual flashing banner ad: "The content our brand partners have created is more than just advertising — it is thoughtful, beautiful, and diverse content that fits seamlessly alongside the best work on our network," says Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp.
I would hope that this is true, because from I have seen mobile users really don't like to have their reading interrupted by ads. I had to learn that the hard way.
As you might know I have a mobile site specifically intended for small screens, and of course that site has ads. Those ads have never generated all that much money, so at one point I had the bright idea of adding a large (300x250 pixels) on the post pages so I could generate more revenue.
Oh boy was that a bad idea. While that ad did generate a decent amount of revenue, it also drove away readers. In less than a month my mobile traffic dropped from around 17% of visits to only 2% of visits. And the readers stayed away, too; it has been several months and my mobile traffic still is not up to where it used to be.
Now, I'm not saying that Tumblr is making a mistake, but I do think that it is far easier to do mobile ads the wrong way than it is to get them right.
The Tumblr news today comes as the latest step in a reversal of company policy. Tumblr had never intended to ahve ads, and in fact Tumblr CEO David Karp told the Los Angeles Times in 2010 that he was opposed to ads because the idea "really turns our stomachs". But it seems Tumblr is facing greater pressure to generate revenue. They launched their first ad project around this time last year. Those ads only appeared on the website and not the mobile apps.
P.S. Just to be clear, the obnoxious advert is gone from the mobile version of The Digital Reader. It's safe to go back.
P.P.S. Speaking of mobile websites, if you want to see a horribly ugly one then go check out Teleread. Words fail me.