A Blog by Jonathan Low


Feb 9, 2011

Fashion and Tech Worlds Find Right Fit With Tumblr

One of the recent trends of note is the focus of certain industries on new social media or related web services. Increasingly sophisticated experts are learning to marry the demands of their industry with the various strengths of the available tech offerings. The fashion industry, with its need for good graphics, photo or video up-and-down-loads and other features, has found that Tumblr is the platform of choice for fashion blogs.

Elizabeth Holmes describes the mutual attraction in the Wall Street Journal:

"Landing a single ticket to a New York Fashion Week show is considered a feat for most. But Tumblr, a fast-growing New York-based blogging service, was able to snag 24 passes to each of more than a dozen shows, including big names like Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta.

For Fashion Week, which kicks off Thursday at Lincoln Center, Tumblr is bringing in two dozen of the top fashion bloggers who use its site, putting them up in a hotel and sending them to myriad events, including backstage tours and a rooftop party. The plan is part of a push to raise its own profile and the profiles of its bloggers.

It's also evidence of its sway. Tumblr's acceptance by big-name designers is the latest sign of an increasingly cozy relationship between two strange bedfellows: the fashion and technology communities.

Luxury labels, which once shied away from e-commerce for fear of muddying their brands, are now embracing blogging and social-media tools such as Tumblr and Twitter because they provide a direct way to reach fashion-conscious consumers. The invited "Tumblrs," as the bloggers are called, all have thousands of followers.

."When you add up their reach, it's huge," said designer Rebecca Minkoff, who has made space for the entire Tumblr group at her show on Friday.

Other tech companies also are making hay from Fashion Week. Gilt Groupe, a popular website that sells discounted merchandise in small quantities for a limited time, will have a sale Thursday from high-end brands showing their collections at Fashion Week, with Peter Som, Doo.Ri and Prabal Gurung.

Polyvore, a website that lets its users compile magazine-esque collages of clothes, has its own runway project. Bergdorf Goodman, a division of Neiman Marcus Group Inc., asked Polyvore users to style an outfit for its fashion director, Linda Fargo, to wear during Fashion Week. The winning designer will be flown to Fashion Week and receive a $2,500 gift card.

One of Tumblr's high-profile bloggers at the shows will be Jessica Quirk, of the blog What I Wore, which has 54,000 followers. The 28-year-old was among the first fashion types on Tumblr when she joined in March 2008. She began posting photos of what she wore each day; a year or so later, her blog was a full-time job.

Tumblr saw 6.7 million unique U.S. visitors in December, according to industry tracker comScore Inc. That's up 168% from the year before—but still well behind two other major blogging platforms. WordPress had almost 28 million unique U.S. visitors during that time, while Blogger, which is owned by Google Inc., had nearly 59 million. If the measure is page views, however, Tumblr far surpasses those rivals. Tumblr had 1.6 billion U.S. page views in December, compared with Blogger's 697 million and WordPress's 141 million, according to comScore.

Tumblr is unique in that it combines blogging and social media. It's more open than Facebook and more visual than Twitter—and more customizable than both. Users sign up for a free account, choose a name for their public webpage and then post whatever they like. The simple design has lowered the bar for what constitutes a post. While many blogs are elaborate, Tumblr enables short-form posts—a single photo or a standalone sentence are often all a person posts at a given time.

Tumblr also has a sharing element. Much like Twitter and Facebook, users can follow other people on Tumblr and receive updates via a feed. Users also can post content from another Tumblr onto their personal blog, helping content spread virally. Ms. Quirk credits the "rapid fire" growth of her blog to Tumblr's sharing capabilities. "It's hard for it to not spread and grow," she said.

Tumblr users also can modify every aspect of their blogs, such as the layout, the colors, the font or backgrounds.

Out of Tumblr's 13.4 million blogs, about 20% are related to fashion. (Vogue has its own blog on the site, as do other magazines and fashion brands.)

The Fashion Week attendees were chosen by the Tumblr's fashion director, Rich Tong, who aimed to gather bloggers with both influence and varying viewpoints. One Tumblr who will be attending is John Jannuzzi, whose blog, Textbook, re-imagines historical and fictional characters in current fashions. The 25-year-old has about 19,500 followers.

Tumblr didn't set out to become a fashion destination when it began in 2007. CEO and founder David Karp, a high-school dropout then 20 years old, launched the site to simplify the process of blogging. The Tumblr name stems from tumblelog, which is a short-form mixed-media blog.

Tumblr doesn't generate much revenue, yet it secured its fourth round of venture-capital funding in December, to the tune of $30 million, which was led by Google investor Sequoia Capital. (Its first, second and third rounds totaled about $10.3 million.)

Like many hot young Internet start-ups, Tumblr wants to grow now and make money later. President John Maloney says the site won't rush to clutter itself with advertising. "The ability to monetize a network of this size is very apparent," he says.

Tumblr has its share of stumbles. The site is often slow or unavailable, which CEO Mr. Karp says is the result of 45,000 users signing up each day.

Growth from Asia wasn't a problem because it is a different time zone, Mr. Karp said. However, a recent surge in interest from South America, in time zones similar U.S., has triggered recent outages.


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