How Big Was Porn Content On Tumblr?

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The aftermath of Tumblr without porn – the saga continues

As of December 17th 2018, Tumblr has banned all adult content from its website as part of their new community guidelines. The decision has caused a huge outcry among the platform’s users: from ridiculing the language chosen to explain the ban on “female-presenting nipples”, to outright calling out the ban for being an affront to the site’s culture and community, people did not mince words when expressing their disapproval. The wave of outrage sweeping through Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and other social media sites did not leave the company unscathed, but apart from the staggering quantity of users denouncing the ban, the raw anger expressed in these posts cannot be questioned. Tumblr has lost almost 20% of its website traffic in just the space of a month, and current online petitions against the ban have already gathered over a million signatures (and counting), already showing the signs that they have lost a major part of their community.

Porn On Tumblr

Source: SimilarWeb (2019): Traffic Overview

The outcry after the Tumblr ban

Before the ban, Tumblr was the primary platform where users could freely create and share NSFW content on their blogs with other like-minded individuals. The website’s new direction has basically pulled the rug out from such users, since many of them had already spent years developing their blog when the right to continue to do so was taken away from them. In a popular response to the Tumblr staff post detailing the site’s updated community guidelines, Tumblr user caitercates pointed out that apart from “actively deleting the majority of their account base” this decision also affects “countless artists and writers who are about to lose their viewer/readership”. Enacting such censorship basically obliterates an essential part of the Tumblr community based on the sharing of NSFW multimedia (such as pictures, GIFs, and videos), and the many writer-reader relationships that took form over the years.

How many adult content creators are there on Tumblr?

Porn On Tumblr

Source: Coletto et al (2017): Pornography consumption in Social Media

Source: TechCrunch (2013): Tumblr’s Adult Fare Accounts For 11.4% Of Site’s Top 200K Domains, Adult Sites Are Leading Category Of Referrals

Tumblr’s decision to distance itself from NSFW posts was especially unanticipated, since according to technology and news site TechCrunch, adult content has always covered a significant portion of Tumblr’s in- and outgoing website traffic. A more recent study from 2017 has found that while only a fraction (0.1%) of all Tumblr users create pornographic content, the actual consumption of such content is far greater. It should be noted that Tumblr has over 458 million blogs on its site. Out of this abundance of user-generated content, more than 11% of Tumblr’s top 200 blogs – which account for the greatest traffic on the site – were NSFW material, showing that the most popular blogs were made by a compelling amount of adult content creators.

Adult content consumption on Tumblr

Porn On Tumblr

Source: Coletto et al (2017): Pornography consumption in Social Media

The importance of pornographic content consumption is even more notable when taking a look at the whole of the Tumblr user base: out of the more than 458 million people on Tumblr, over 20% used it to view NSFW material. Incidentally, this number is about the same proportion of website traffic that Tumblr has lost since the wider ban has taken effect back in December. This means that by January, Tumblr’s website traffic took a hard hit, amounting to a loss of almost 84 million visits. With such a drastic change in such short a time, the decrease in ingoing traffic alone shows that a significant amount of people used Tumblr solely for its library of adult content. Having such a considerable (and evidently vocal) target audience for NSFW material does raise the question: did Tumblr shoot itself in the leg?

Tumblr was an NSFW content hub

Porn On Tumblr

Source: TechCrunch (2013): Tumblr’s Adult Fare Accounts For 11.4% Of Site’s Top 200K Domains, Adult Sites Are Leading Category Of Referrals

The website network surrounding adult content on Tumblr also supports the fact that porn really did have a dominant role on Tumblr. In 2013, a study from TechCrunch has shown that 22.37% of Tumblr’s referral traffic came from pornographic websites, and 8% of Tumblr’s outgoing referral traffic could be linked to adult sites. These statistics further cement Tumblr’s (pre-ban) presence on the internet as a prime hub for adult content and liberty of sexual expression, on par with the greatest names in the industry.

Now that the online landscape has obviously changed, one may ask: where did all that traffic go? As the saying goes, “a body of matter cannot disappear: it only changes form”. While alternatives do exist in the form of various pornographic websites, none of them provide the same technical functions, or social environment that independent bloggers valued so much. This is why more and more websites pop up to try and bring back what many people feel they have lost.

A new alternative:

Among the many sites that users may choose to migrate to, is one such alternative. Content creators can already transfer the entirety of their Tumblr account and secure the content of their blogs away from any possible danger of deletion. Ex-Tumblr bloggers will be able to see their blogs on as soon as March, and while the website itself is still under construction, it will go live to the greater public in April according to staff. It will also have all the functions that Tumblr had, as well as a highly similar website structure and design, so bloggers and other users will be able to enjoy the exact same experience as they could before the ban took effect. The crew also insists on providing a restrictions-free environment, meaning users may not have to worry about any future censorship, should they decide to move to this new Tumblr alternative.

Sources for the provided statistics were taken from the following websites:

Sources for the online petition numbers:

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