The Tumblrpocalypse

The end is near! Tumblr Refugees: Read On

No doubt by now you’ve read news of Tumblr’s demise. No? In a nutshell they caved into the demands of Apple (and the Feds) with an epic overreaction, and brought down the oppressive curtains of censorship on us members. It’s a sad and cowardly move by Jeff D’Onofrio, and likely the final nail in the coffin for one of the last platforms with common-sense content policies. Artists and perverts alike (I love you all) have until December 17th to clear out, or lose anything the (quite inept) Tumblr algorithm deems “explicit” forever. Thankfully, with the help of a couple long-forgotten plugins, exodus to a self-hosted WordPress installation isn’t impossible.


Note: while there is enough overlap for a successful migration from Tumblr, the two platforms have several features that don’t exist on the other. Because of this there will obviously be some cleanup needed after migration (such as a ton of “no title” titles if, like me, you didn’t use titles on Tumblr), as well as some data that will be lost (such as likes and credits). Also, I’ve only used this procedure to migrate my clients’ text- and photo-based blogs, so your results may vary with reblogs, chats, etc.


This guide is just a quick-and-dirty, intended to save experienced nerds some time, since time is short and misinformation is plentiful—this is not all inclusive. It assumes you have at least a basic working knowledge of the WP-Admin and installing plug-ins. Ideally you’ll be performing these steps on a local install of WordPress using XAMPP or whatever development environment you prefer, then pushing it to a live site, but I recommend at least starting with a clean install of WordPress. If you’re migrating into an existing WordPress site please make a backup of the database first! In fact, I recommend backing up the database after step 8 on a clean install too just in case.

The quick-and-dirty guide to fleeing Tumblr in a hurry:

  1. In your WordPress Admin, go to Tools › Import. Under Tumblr, click Install Now. When it’s done, click Run Importer. Yes, I know it’s ancient. Yes, I know everyone says it’s broken. It works perfectly fine—I’ve used it in both XAMPP and cPanel environments and both http and https connections.
  2. Follow the instructions to create an “app” on Tumblr (super easy), then copy-pasta that OAuth and Secret key back to the Importer and click Connect to Tumblr.
  3. Click Authorize the Application and click Allow to grant the Importer access. Click Import This Blog.
    (Depending on how many posts you have it may take a while, but it runs in the background so you can continue to the next step.)
  4. Install and activate Set All First Images As Featured by Lucy Thomás.
    It’s a pain to find through Add Plugin, so search for “First Images Lucy” to bring it to the top. Yes, it’s four years old. Yes, it still works just fine.
  5. Go to Tools › Import › Tumblr › Run Importer and check the progress of your import. If it isn’t finished yet, do not use the Set All First Images As Featured plug-in! Find and install a new theme, create tasteful photographs of female-presenting nipples, go make a sandwich, etc.
  6. Once the Tumblr Importer is finished, go to Tools › First Images As Featured.
  7. If you’re working from a clean install of WordPress you can ignore the options and just click Start.
    If you’re migrating to an existing installation adjust as needed, then click Start.
  8. Lucy’s plugin will work it’s magic, and your data migration is now complete.
  9. Perform cleanup tasks as necessary, like giving all those “(no title)” posts a title, organizing things into categories, building out contact pages, etc.
    9-A. (optional) See additional notes below to bulk-convert “gallery” post types to “photo” post types—useful if all of your photo posts on Tumblr were single-image.
  10. Install an appropriate theme to make your rescued content happy. Many theme designers release their work for both Tumblr and WordPress, so there’s a fair chance you’ll even be able to use the same theme.
  11. (optional) If you followed my recommendation above and are working in a dev environment, make sure you’re happy with the newly created site, then move it to your live production server.
  12. If you’re using a custom domain for your Tumblr site, hop onto your DNS provider and point it at your new live site. If you’re using a address you can use the old school meta code at the end of this article to forward viewers to your new site. Note: if you want to keep individual page links intact for each post you’ll have to do some significant redirecting and/or database manipulation, which is beyond the scope of this guide.
  13. Install a decent security plugin and lock that shit down! You’re not in Tumblr-land anymore, here there be dragons. The good ones will have frequent updates, auto-scans, and handle most of the advanced stuff for you: free options from Sucuri, All In One WP Security & Firewall, Wordfence, and iThemes all work great.
  14. Don’t forget: go re-follow all your favorite Tumblrs over on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, etc…

Code and Queries

Step 9-A. Bulk-Convert Gallery to Photo

Were all (most) of your photo posts on Tumblr a single image? The Importer turns them into “gallery” post formats in WordPress to support multiple images, which might have made a mess of all your single-image posts. You can convert these in the WP-Admin, albeit only a few hundred at a time:

  1. Go to the Posts tab expand Screen Options and change Number of items per page to 200ish, then hit Apply.
  2. Check the box next to each gallery (or select-all if you only have photos).
  3. Click Bulk Actions, select Edit, click Apply.
  4. Change Format to Photo and click Update.
  5. Rinse and repeat for each additional page of posts.


When you’re done you’ll also need to strip all those gallery shortcodes. Run this simple query to do so. Note: this will remove ALL gallery shortcode tags from ALL posts and there is no undo, so be sure you really want this!

UPDATE `wp_posts` SET `post_content` = REPLACE( `post_content`, '[gallery]', '' ) WHERE `post_type`="post";

Step 12. Redirect Script for Tumblr Addresses

If you’re stuck using a address and don’t have the skills or patience to fix your links by other means, edit your Tumblr theme’s HTML and insert this code in the <head> (change the address to match your new site, of course). Note: if you stop being active on Tumblr, they will delete your address in one year, so this should be considered a temporary measure.

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;URL=''" />

Need more help?

If you have more complicated needs, want help making it pretty again (theme issues), or just want someone who knows what they’re doing to “make it go” feel free to get in touch through the Studio—we’re doing Tumblr migrations at cost for fleeing refugees. We can also handle long term maintenance and security if you’re uncomfortable managing that stuff on your own.

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