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Tumblr CEO says displaying ads 'complete last resort'

The chief executive sat down for an interview with AdAge and revealed that putting ads on the site, which has about 4.5 billion impressions each week, is a "last resort," even if it means selling the company's desks first.

It's no secret Tumblr is big and growing, but now, the time has come for the company to start generating some cash. Just don't expect ads to play a role in that.

Speaking to AdAge in an interview published today, Tumblr CEO David Karp made it abundantly clear that his company has no interest in placing ads on its service, saying that the microblogging tool is "selling our desks to avoid that, it's a complete last resort."

Still, the temptation to bring ads to Tumblr, which has yet to effectively monetize its growth, might be intense among investors. The company announced a few weeks ago that it now reached 50 billion blogs and over 20 billion posts. Those figures now stand at nearly 21 billion posts and 51.5 million blogs. Such popularity has helped the company capture 4.5 billion impressions each week, making it one of the top destinations on the Web and an ideal place for the firm to place ads.

Karp acknowledged that tossing Google's AdSense platform could make Tumblr profitable immediately, but he told AdAge that "it's a lot more interesting to us to think that some chunk of that attention...can actually be made available to our users as a feature."

To achieve that goal, Tumblr in February launched "highlighted posts," allowing users to pay $1 to get their important post to stand out in the Dashboard. The company also lets users purchase and sell themes.

Looking ahead, Karp says that his company plans to offer a host of new features to monetize its service, and is currently in the process of hiring a revenue executive to help the firm achieve its goals. But monetizing a growing online powerhouse is by no means easy. Twitter is still trying to find the sweet spot for increasing revenue on its site, and Facebook only recently achieved profitability with the help of ads and Facebook Credits.

Now, it's Tumblr's turn to find the magic bullet that will help it grow from a startup living on investment dollars to a Web giant that can be self-sustaining.