Yahoo spent a billion dollars buying Tumblr in May 2013, and today they took another step to recoup their investment.
Tumblr rolled out a new iPad and iPhone app today which adds more ways for you to spend money. Posts which link to Kickstarter, Etsy, or DoSomething.org will now automatically convert the links to buttons that will say pledge, buy, or get involved.
The new buttons showed up in the iOS app this morning, but they aren't visible on individual blogs on the Tumblr website or in the Android app (which is supposed to be getting an update, but hasn't yet). Their launch is an expansion of the tests which Tumblr started running back in December when it beta tested buttons for the three sites mentioned above as well as for Artsy.
To put it simply, Tumblr is adding the buttons as a way of improving the conversion rate (from reader into spender). The buttons harness Tumblr's native inclination to be a gallery site and offer users a clear decision point. This is a money making measure, and a subtle one at that.
There's no word yet when Tumblr plans to expand the program to include the larger retail sites, but I wouldn't assume that it is going to happen any time soon.
A bunch of social networks, including Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, are experimenting with this type of buy button. While that might sound like a good reason for Tumblr to get a move on, the fact that all of the sites are still experimenting suggests that no one is quite sure how to monetize retail links, or even if the idea is viable.
They're also probably working out the technical bugs, and until those have been squashed undue haste is not warranted.
You can find the app in iTunes.