If you’re looking to set up a new blog or revamp an old one, you’re probably looking at the standard platforms, WordPress, Blogger, MovableType, etc.
However, depending on the type of site you wish to set up, you may want to give Tumblr a second look. Though Tumblr isn’t right for every blog, for certain kinds of sites, it can be a very powerful time-saver and traffic-builder.
So even though it is easy to discard Tumblr as “just a microblogging service”, it’s important to not dismiss it so quickly. Underneath the veneer of microblogging service lies a powerful blogging platform that is more than adequate for some of the many popular blogs, including Keyboard Cat and Gary: Landlord of the Flies.
But is it right for your blog? That’s a question only you can answer but here might be some good signs to consider.
When you consider using Tumblr for your blog, there are a series of potentially compelling benefits that might be of interest depending on the kind of site you wish to run.
- Convenience: By using bookmarklets, mobile apps, phone posting, IM submissions and other tools to post content, it is very fast and very easy to get short-form content onto your Tumblelog including video, images, quotes, etc.
- Customization: With Tumblr you can choose a theme as a starting point but customize it with almost limitless potential. This includes adding advertisements and a customm domain name.
- Hosted Solution: A Tumblelog is hosted on Tumblr’s service, which has proved capable of withstanding large traffic spikes and being generally very reliable.
- Built-In Community: Tumblr is also a network with built-in networking elements that lets you tap into its native audience.
- Free: Tumblr is completely free, no need to pay for any features or tools.
But this is not to say that Tumblr is perfect, especially for all blog types. Where Tumblr’s features are a blessing to its members, to others they can be something of a curse.
As important as it is to consider what you’re getting with a Tumblelog, you need to take a look at what you’re giving up as well to ensure that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
- Bad For Long-Form Posts: The longer the posts you plan on making, the worse Tumblr performs. Not only are the templates designed for shorter posts, the lack of autosaved drafts and no “MORE” tag equivalent (at least not without additional work) to show only part of the post on the front page, make it poor for longer posts.
- No Plugins: With WordPress and MovableType, you get a wide variety of plugins you can add to your site. No such extensions exist for Tumblr that can’t be added directly to the HTML code.
- Forced Elements: Perfectionists will hate that certain elements have to be present on every Tumblelog, namely the top bar links.
- Out-of-the-Box Limitations: Tumblr doesn’t come with a built-in commenting system and you’ll have to turn to a hosted solutions, such as Disqus to make it work. These solutions often don’t fit in well or look natural.
- Locked In: Finally, if you use a self-hosted solution you can always pack up and move your blog, take your database with you, etc. With Tumblr, you’re at the mercy of the company. Though there are ways to export Tumblr blogs, the process is much more convoluted than even other hosted solutions.
All in all, the advantage of a Tumblelog is that they are easy to create, set up and run. They require little time and maintenance to keep going and can reach a very large internal community. However, those who demand total control over their site will likely be wary of Tumblr’s requirements and limitations.
Is It For You?
If you’re deciding whether Tumblr is right for you, the easiest way is to look at the types of posts Tumblelogs can have and see if they are going to be the kinds of posts you’re going to do most often. They are text (short form), photo, quote, link, chat, audio and video. If most of your posts will fit into one of these categories without the need for a lot of text, you might want to consider it.
Here are a few blog types that might want to give Tumblr a chance:
- Photography Blogs: Tumblr makes it much easier to do photo-based posts, especially with a Flickr account, than a default WordPress blog and has great themes for it.
- Audio/Video Blogs: Tumblr also works well with embedded audio and video, making it easy to create a blog-like home page for your YouTube account.
- Linkblogs: Tumblr is more flexible and robust than Twitter for creating a linkblog and has more features than social bookmarking sites.
- Short Form Text: If you’re going to be posting haikus, quotes or other text under a few hundred words, Tumblr’s features may make it faster and easier than alternatives.
In short, Tumblr is ideal for blogs too complicated and large for a Twitter account, but that don’t really need all of the horsepower of a full WordPress installation. It sits somewhere in between the two, but it’s a gray area that can cover a lot of sites.
Tumblr has never claimed to be a service for full blogs. But then again, a good number of blogs don’t need to be. If your site isn’t or wouldn’t be using the full horsepower of its blogging platform, you may save time and money using Tumblr instead.
I wouldn’t run the Blog Herald with it nor most of my sites, but for a site like Copyright Fail, which is mostly a collection of quotes and links, it makes sense. It’s faster and easier to set up a Tumblelog than to create a new WordPress installation and build the site from scratch, without Tumblr’s tools.
If Tumblr is the right platform for the job, it doesn’t make sense to discount it. It’s that simple.