Ads hit Tumbler desktop feeds as Yahoo takeover looms

Sponsored posts will start appearing within users' feeds on desktops

Tumblr is now putting ads in users' feeds on the desktop, in what could be the first move toward making sure the social blogging site is a profitable business for Yahoo.

Tumblr started placing ads in users' streams on mobile devices in April in the form of promoted posts, similar to how advertisements appear within people's streams on Twitter or Facebook. The ads will continue to roll out over a beta period through the end of June.

Paid sponsored posts from fashion, entertainment and other brand partners were brought to the desktop for Tumblr one year ago, but those ads appeared in Tumblr's "Radar" right rail -- not in users' central stream, or "dashboard," as Tumblr calls it.

The dashboard functions like Facebook's News Feed, displaying posts from users' friends and updated in real time as more content gets posted. Under the changes, which were announced Thursday afternoon by Tumblr in a blog post, sponsored posts will appear alongside other blogged content within users' dashboards on the desktop. Sponsored posts will be denoted by a small dollar-sign graphic.

Users will be able to reblog, like, follow and share the advertising entries directly from Tumblr's Web dashboard.

Advertising on Tumblr so far has been limited, and the company has stressed that it wants to keep the style and presentation of ads in sync with the artistic sensibilities of Tumblr's platform for creative self-expression.

That also appears to be the goal with the introduction of ads on the desktop dashboard. "Just like in our mobile apps, these posts will simply blend in with the posts from the blogs you follow," Tumblr said Thursday.

Tumblr's announcement of the ads to come features one example of such an ad, with a grainy image of a Denny's restaurant sign with choppily animated clouds gliding by behind it.

Viacom, Ford Motor Co., Universal Pictures, Capital One, AT&T, Denny's and Purina are the initial advertising partners that will use in-stream ads.

Yahoo faces significant pressure to monetize Tumblr, which it agreed to acquire for about US$1.1 billion in a deal announced last week. The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year.

As the deal was announced, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer promised not to "screw it up." Having Yahoo and Tumblr work together "to create advertising opportunities that are seamless and enhance the user experience" was also a stated goal.

Tumblr, headquartered in New York City, was founded in 2007.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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