Mashable Goes All-In On Social With Site Redesign

Peter Cashmore
Photo taken by Lisa Bettany

In marketers’ efforts to land new customers online, social media comes first followed by search engine optimization (SEO). That was one of the key takeaways from Mashable Media Summit in New York.

During the conference, Mashable CEO Peter Cashmore previewed his site's redesign and relaunch, which rolls out on Dec. 4. Cashmore described a new site that will feature a responsive design, an emphasis on native advertising and a content layout and flow that's driven primarily by social activity.

To emphasize the growing importance of the mobile platform, and its diversity, Cashmore said the site in October attracted readers using 2,800 unique devices—with 30% of readers coming from mobile. This was a primary driver behind Mashable's decision to go with a responsive design emphasis over an app approach.

"What we're doing is if people are consuming on the mobile web we need to make our mobile site amazing and if they're coming from Twitter and Facebook, we need to make that experience a good one too,” he said.

As for social and its impact on traffic, Cashmore noted that it's now social first and SEO second. "We will always look for ways to influence sharing versus cramming stories with keywords," he said.

The site will feature a social "start page," which organizes content in a column layout from left to right based on social activity around a particular article. The content itself is optimized for sharing.

For example, new content starts in the left column. As it trends higher, it moves to the center, and then finally to the right "What's Hot" column as the trending peaks. The home page is set up and displayed according to what people are interacting with.

What’s more, articles include sharable elements, which Cashmore called "microcontent." Image, video and text elements are individually sharable. This decision was driven by the fact that images are shared eight times more than links on Mashable. Accordingly, articles will now have high-quality images associated with the, curated and selected by a new full-time image editor who will also manage licensing deals with the images.

Advertising will now be primarily "native," or custom ads, rather than display. These formats, said Cashmore, are more content-oriented.

As a result, they'll be included in the standard content stream, labeled as ads, and formatted with the same sharable qualities. Regular display ads, noted Cashmore, are not shareable. Specific new formats will include in-stream display units, native in-stream units, storytelling units and brand lift units (content that's created by the advertiser, but is not specifically about a brand).

Packaging will be a key strategy going forward. "If your website isn't as fun on these devices, [readers] might go elsewhere, which is why packaging is going to be big in 2013,” said Cashmore.

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