Pete Cashmore (Mashable CEO) Responds To Feedback Of His Site

Yesterday I embraced my own philosophy of never being afraid to have opinions or taking sides.  I stated my opinion about the popular blog, Mashable.

And Pete Cashmore, Mashable’s CEO is smart – he actually took the time to leave a comment and continue the discussion.  For that, he’s earning another post about his brand (think what you will about the first one, it’s still positive to gain more awareness).  Before I  get into his comment – which was a great response – I want to run through something else.

Let’s take a look at all the times I’ve offered criticism/opinions of others, their actions or content, and if that party bothered to respond:

So we’ll add Pete Cashmore to the list of people who cares enough about their own brand/product to get into discussions about it, vs. others who don’t care.  Guess what happens when you respond to someone in a constructive way?  You encourage them to be constructive (although I don’t think my original thread was that snarky – I’m no Steven Hodson).

On to Pete’s response.  We’ll break it into sections so we can respond accordingly:

Hey Adam,

I love this kind of post cos it helps us figure out what we can do better. Obviously I’m not in full agreement with your points, but I’d love to get your take (and the commenters’, if they can spare a moment) on what we could do to improve in your eyes.  Some questions for you:

First of all, thanks for the response Pete – glad to have you here.  And thanks for Tweeting/blogging my content in the past  (I’ve mentioned Mashable on this blog plenty as well – like I said, there are a lot of good things on your site).  I’m glad you are open to feedback from the community and I especially appreciate a bit of opinion doesn’t rub you the wrong way.  That’s neat, especially for a CEO (many of your peers could learn quite a bit from you).  Let’s get into your questions.

–What’s the one thing Mashable could change to make the biggest improvement, do you think?

This is a great question – my simplified response would be a focus on quality over quantity.  As many of the commenters in the original thread noted, there is great content on Mashable – but in many cases it’s surrounded by fluff or off-topic material.

–With regard to brand identity: what do you see as the opportunity here? What type of content would improve this perception?

For a content based site, if developing an identity was an objective, I’d focus on two factors:

1.  Framing content

Check out how Mike Masnick at Techdirt frames his stories.  He’s got it down to an art, and can consistently deliver on the style day in and day out.  It provides the brand a strong identity and for it he has a community interested enough to connect directly and go beyond subscribing to becoming passionate supporters (yup, I own a Techdirt t-shirt).  Because they frame content so effectively and consistently some even hate them.  But few are indifferent, their content  stands out amongst other technology bloggers in a good way.  It has character and personality – even when it’s not Mike posting, guest posters are all at a level they understand the thesis and can continue it.

2.  Selective reporting

The absence of specific content positions a site against others and allows it to develop a unique identity.  Only by selectively reporting can a site develop personality.  If you want to be all things to all people, you become About.com – or the K-mart of the Internet (aka, no personality).  There is nothing wrong with that and it can bring a lot of success in the form of numbers, but personality, character and even trust are not about metrics.

It’s tempting to publish everything to gain more traffic, pageviews and visitors – but if you’re trying to develop an identity with those who have a deep interest in a subject, you have to limit yourself strategically.  That’s not the strategy of most news outlets (which Mashable has evolved into) but it is a reason a site will suffer a loss of identity.  Years ago I viewed Mashable with more personality because it didn’t report everything.  Another benefit of posting less is the community is able to read all the conversations, (if they are all worth reading) know where you’ve been, and where the dialog is going.

–Do you have suggestions for the types of guest posters you’d like to see? Who would add the most value here, do you think? Specific names would be super helpful, but even a broader set of suggestions would give me some action items to work with.

It feels like there needs to be some kind of quality filter on your guest posters.  It cheapens your site when I see industry leaders publishing content alongside those with no business publishing on a top-100 blog.  IE, I’ve seen you allow guest posters where the links back to go blogs with 2 posts (or never updated) and an obviously thrown-together company website built on a cheap template offering XYZ social media/marketing/technology consulting.  I take the time click for more information on authors I don’t know – I’m always interested in the source of what I’m reading (as I know many others with an interest in the industry are).  And when I see any brand tagged to someone like this, well – it takes the brand down a notch mentally.  A fence is only as strong as it’s weakest link.

I’m not going to provide negatives examples as I’d like to stay constructive, so I’ll highlight a positive:  more people like Dan Zarrella would be cool – he’s one of my favorite guest contributors on the site.  I guess it feels like (even if it’s not true) there’s no bar for quality of who can guest post on Mashable, cheapening what a guest post should be:  a breath of fresh air from the regular voices offering remarkable viewpoints that get the community talking.

–Do you have further suggestions for improvement not mentioned above?

Yes, don’t listen to me.  Seriously – you have an insanely successful blog, it gets millions of pageviews – no reason to change your strategy based on the feedback of one blogger.  If you want to be a part of the more intimate web conversations and have a brand with lots of character and personality, start another, smaller blog known for signal and kill the noise.  I do still read Mashable posts when my network points me their direction, but I (personally) don’t find enough use in what you’re doing to go there consistently.  Many do for sure, but I don’t know that I’m your target audience.

Hey readers, want to jump in and provide answers to some of Pete’s questions?