Tumblr, like other new media companies, has some superficial similarities to traditional media companies. Both new and traditional media publish content that attracts an audience, then sell advertisers access to that audience. But the similarities end there.
New media companies like Tumblr also rely on automation -- computers and computer software --to provide a platform for the production and distribution of the content they use. Traditional media companies cannot easily develop similar platforms because millions of potential users have already selected new media platforms for blogging and other Internet activities.
The new media business model relies on free content and automation to keep costs low, otherwise these companies would go out of business. That is because new media companies generate very small per-unit revenue from Internet advertising. These companies must keep their per-unit costs low if they want to generate enough money to survive.
The low per-unit revenue at new media companies means they must also attract a very large number of users before they can generate enough profit to justify the high values that new media companies receive from financial markets. Traditional media companies have much lower values in financial markets, but traditional media still generate high enough revenue-per-unit to survive without an audience in the hundreds of millions.
For example, Tumblr’s enormous number of blogs means it has to generate average revenue-per-blog of just $5.95 to generate its $1.1 billion purchase price.
Yahoo is still trying to develop advertising that won’t disturb the Tumblr ethos, which rejects advertising. I suspect Yahoo is also developing ways to generate revenue from data about Tumblr users even though Yahoo only requires an e-mail address to identify each Tumblr user.