It seems the honeymoon between the fashion industry and Tumblr is officially over.
The first rumblings of a fall out came, as Mashable reported last night, from Jessica Coghan, director of digital marketing at Starworks Group, who voiced complaints about the platform--namely that Tumblr does not have an analytics board, making it hard for brands to measure their presence, and that the platform's NYFW sponsorship proposals were unreasonably pricey.
Since then the floodgates have opened, with all sorts of people coming out of the woodwork to slam Tumblr--from Julie Fredrickson, who manages digital and social media at Ann Taylor and Raman Kia, director of digital and social media marketing at Starworks, to Tony King, creative director of digital agency King & Partners. Like Coghan, these industry players complained about Tumblr's lack of analytics, absurd sponsorship price points and many of them also went on to personally call out Tumblr's Fashion Director, Rich Tong.
To give you a picture of the kind of money we're talking here, Tumblr is proposing to charge: -$100K for "partnered content" aka 15 posts a day by one of the NYFW bloggers -$150K for a sponsored takeover of tumblr.com/nyfw -$350K for sponsored takeover of tumblr.com/tagged/fashion All of these sums are per week. We'll just let that sink in. Adding to the absurdity of the overinflated prices is the fact that as far as sponsored takeovers go, Tumblr isn't offering much: Both the $150K and $350K are nothing more than a banner ad and a few promoted posts from the brand's own Tumblr. To give you a comparison, an "industry rep" told Mashable that "a front page takeover of nytimes.com runs at a CPM of about $2 to $3, and the 'most premium' package from magazine publisher Conde Nast runs just above $30."
Moreover, Tumblr is looking to charge brands for "offline opportunities," like "private events," where "any number of representatives from your brand" will have the "opportunity to personally interact with the 20 Tumblr bloggers in an intimate setting." In other words, Tumblr is offering brands an "opportunity" to throw a party at their own expense, guarantee their bloggers' VIP invite and then--wait for it--fork over $10K to the platform at the end of the day.
Also in Tumblr's "offline opportunities" package: Paid product placement on all 20 of their NYFW bloggers' pages for an unnamed sum. Now, product placement is not necessarily an uncommon practice, but it is certainly a controversial one: After complaints of the denigration of editorial integrity online, the Federal Trade Commission updated their guidelines in 2009, saying, "that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service." It's unclear whether Tumblr planned on disclosing the nature of said product placement, but either way, it's considered a somewhat-shady move for such an internet-savvy company.
Lost in all of this, of course, are the 20 bloggers that Tumblr is sending to NYFW. We've confirmed that Tumblr has no intention of paying said bloggers, whose original content the company is using to leverage unheard of sums from big-name brands, garnering huge profits and at zero cost. It's certainly at least a little exploitative, considering that many of these bloggers are quite young (some are still in college) with little knowledge of the industry and of their own earning power.
This definitely isn't the end of the story. We'll have to stay tuned to see how it all plays out.