Two Reasons Tumblr is Upstaging

There was a discussion on WPCandy a few weeks ago asking if Tumblr was the new WordPress. Many commenters on the post tout Tumblr’s features, like post formats, as the key to its success. These are only a small part of the story.

In my opinion, WordPress is a better publishing platform. But, the only flavour of WordPress comparable to Tumblr, is missing two of Tumblr’s winning design decisions: publishing from other apps & reading from within the app.

Sharing is Publishing too

Have you ever written a post on It sucks! The whole pop-out window – WTF? Writing is not what Tumblr publishing is about – Tumblr’s focus is on sharing.

Tumblr sharing is baked right into Instagram, Instapaper & other 3rd party iPhone applications. This ubiquitous integration makes’s Press This bookmarklet look like a hangover from the 90’s.

WordPress the software trumps Tumblr for writing. But for many, publishing relates more to sharing than writing.

Producers also Consume

Tumblr also recognise that content producers are also content consumers.

Much of Tumblr’s app family focuses on reading and not publishing. The iPhone app especially, which acts as a feed reader first and a publishing tool second. That’s a great way to do it. I do far more reading on my phone than writing.

WordPress iPhone App

WordPress iPhone App - publishing only.

Tumblr iPhone App

Tumblr iPhone App - read 1st, post 2nd. offers a great reading experience from the front-end. I love how it spruiks content with the related posts feature. But it fails to offer more for the millions of users with a account.’s subscriptions feature is a second class citizen. It’s great to get subscriptions in your inbox, but to read all your subscriptions you have to visit the front-end of And even then it’s just a list of sites, not a feed of all the sites you follow.

Millions of users log into the blog and go via the dashboard, so why not fill the dashboard with a subscriptions feed?

This is how my WordPress Dashboard looks: Dashboard

All the dashboard widgets are minimised. I don’t care about any of that content.

This is my Tumblr dashboard:

Tumblr Dashboard

I always spend a few minutes scanning what people I follow are sharing.

To follow blogs, Automattic relies on feed readers – which we all did use once upon a time, but who uses one now? Even Instapaper, designed exclusively for reading, ditched RSS support in the latest version.

What Needs Now

To stay on top, Automattic needs to do two things (and fast).

1. Publish from Anywhere

Publishing is not just about writing anymore. It’s a lot to do with sharing and throwing in our 2 cents. Press This needs to become a button in the iPhone Instapaper app & Twitter app. Instagram needs to support it. We need to be able to share without firing up a browser, visiting and pasting a link.

2. Make Reading a Priority

Give us a first-class way to follow our favourite blogs from within the WordPress app family. That means a subscriptions feed in the iPhone app and the dashboard of destination site.  Personally, I say ditch the WordPress related feeds & QuickPress in dashboard and make it a beautiful subscriptions feed.


It’s arrogant of me to think I know something the brilliant folks at Automattic don’t. I also understand that WordPress is principally about hand-crafting content.

But while WordPress is still the superior publishing software, the .com flavour is dropping the ball. To stay relevant, I think Automattic need to recognise the shift to sharing and take the opportunity to centralise content consumption for content producers.

About Brent

Born to code.
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7 Responses to Two Reasons Tumblr is Upstaging

  1. Jason says:

    Good post mate. A couple of the main comments I’ve started to hear from people as to why they use tumblr over is that the tumblr interface/dashboard is dead easy to use (nothing to confuse them) and that the community side of things is better. Not being a tumblr user myself for quite some time now I find the community comments quite interesting.

  2. Brent says:

    Simplicity was a big issue in the discussion on the WPCandy post. Otto pointed out in the comments that “simplicity is definitely on the minds of the core dev team”, as it always has been.

    As WordPress becomes a fully fledged CMS (and a great one at that), it will become increasingly hard to maintain simplicity. For .com, Automattic will really have their work cut out for them in determining which features users actually need and hiding the rest.

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  4. Bronson says:

    Nice post squire!

    I couldn’t agree with you more on all front. I think the publishing from anywhere really needs to be address. Sometimes I have to set up WordPress with this plugin do get posting by email in WordPress to emulate something like what Tumblr and Posterous do as well. It’s a bit of a pain to setup.

    I would like to think that one of the reasons post formats were brought into the last release were so that the WordPress apps and post by email would bring in some of this kind of functionality…but we shall see I guess! If only I could get some more hours in the week so I could have a go at introducing some of that functionality myself haha 🙂 All in good time though right? 🙂

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