In times of loneliness, grief or anger, many turn to comfort food to help feed their souls. In recent weeks, as the coronavirus pandemic carved its path across the United States and many countries around the world, Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio thinks that his social platform can serve as a similar tonic.
“In today’s unprecedented time, Tumblr’s communities serve as a sort of ‘internet comfort food’ for so many,” D’Onofrio told Adweek. “Whether you’re sharing memes about your favorite fandom or looking for mental health support, Tumblr’s familiarity and sense of community make it feel like home for our people.”
Tumblr—owned by WordPress parent company Automattic—has some data to show users have been munching on whatever they’re serving. While the company would not provide us with raw numbers, the platform exclusively told Adweek it saw a significant bump in traffic last week, as millions of people adhere to social isolation policies and work-from-home mandates.
The social microblogging platform saw a 5% uptick in global daily users last Tuesday March 17 as compared to the previous Tuesday. During the same time period, Tumblr saw 10-20% increases for new registrations, original posts, original web posts, reblogs, mobile reblogs, likes and follows.
Additionally, Tumblr’s group chat feature, which the company began rolling out in November, saw a 10% boost in both total usage and new chats from two weeks ago to last week. Tumblr would not comment on whether it’s seen recent mobile app growth. But ad analytics firm Sensor Tower, which tracks app installs, told Adweek they haven’t seen a significant increase for Tumblr’s mobile apps.
Coronavirus-centric conversation has skyrocketed during that time period, as well. Original posts with coronavirus tags shot up 250%, searches increased by 280% and reblogs spiked 850%.
Tumblr is not the only social platform to experience a coronavirus bump. Last week, Adweek reported Reddit traffic surged 20-50% in certain subreddits. While websites and service providers seemed initially hesitant to announce conspicuous changes in traffic in such a fraught moment, we have a number of reasons to believe this phenomenon is not unique to Tumblr or Reddit. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told CNBC Thursday that web traffic spiked 20% and streaming is up 12%. And Netflix is reportedly slashing a quarter of its own traffic in Europe to relieve the burden on service providers.
Traffic increases are typically a good thing for social platforms that depend on advertising revenue; however, brands across the board are reevaluating if they should advertise, where they should place ads and what those ads should look and sound like.
“We are in a unique position where we are seeing our overall user base and platform engagement increasing, which is—under normal circumstances—ideal for advertisers,” D’Onofrio said. “However, every brand and business is trying to navigate this new normal, so we are working hand-in-hand with them to figure out what is going to be in everyone’s best interest when it comes to advertising on Tumblr.”
With increased traffic comes an additional duty to police one’s platform for misinformation while promoting reliable information from trusted sources. While the company has a trust and safety team that removes false or misleading claims, Tumblr recently started a digital literacy initiative, called World Wide What, intended to help users spot misinformation. They also hosted an Answer Time session last week and posted a blog with reliable coronavirus resources.
While Tumblr might not be the first place you turn for coronavirus news and information, its chief executive says its role is providing community, comfort and support.
“We’re seeing an outpouring of support among our communities as we all navigate this situation together,” D’Onofrio said. “Tumblr users are sharing educational memes as a sort of coping mechanism, a way to laugh at a faceless threat. But moreover they’re also sharing inspirational quotes and having real conversations about how to promote mental health during this tough time.”
“It’s heartening to me to see users support each other so thoughtfully.”