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A Look Inside Mashable’s Evolution [Interview]

mashable_evolutionChange is always difficult. Even when you are confronted with an undeniable, hit-you-square-between-the-eyes reason to change, change is still daunting for most of us. Yet having the foresight to see that reason lurking in your future, and changing in anticipation of its arrival ... well, that’s difficulty of the highest order.

It’s this notion of pre-emptive evolution that has long impressed me about tech-turned-modern-lifestyle blog, Mashable. The company could have easily enjoyed its perch atop the tech blogosphere until it was disrupted -- the way it disrupted the lumbering, firewalled, pre-social blogs that preceded it. But Mashable didn’t wait to be forced to evolve. Instead, it thrust change upon itself.

With this context in mind, I reached out to Lexie Riegelhaupt, director of marketing and communications for Mashable, to ask about the site’s evolution and direction -- and see if there are lessons corporate and personal bloggers can draw from Mashable’s story. Here’s what she had to say.

HubSpot: How early in Mashable’s life did the leadership decide to expand from its technology roots to become a broad news site, covering everything from life advice to terrorism?

Riegelhaupt: Mashable began when Pete Cashmore, a 19 year old in rural Scotland, started to write on his personal blog about how technology was transforming the world around him. While the topics that Mashable covers have evolved, its roots have stayed the same, with the objective of being the voice of digital culture and telling the story of digital evolution to “The Connected Generation.”

HubSpot: When did Mashable identify this coalescing characteristic you call, “The Connected Generation” and was giving it a name part of your strategy to report on more than “just” technology trends?

Riegelhaupt: Mashable identified that people were interacting and consuming content on a variety of different platforms very early on. It’s why Mashable was one of the first sites to use responsive technology to power our site -- so it looks beautiful on all devices, from cell phones to desktops and everything in between.

HubSpot: What makes a Mashable story “a Mashable story”? Is it the voice or attitude? Is it the demographic to which you are writing? What’s the unifying trait of your content?

Riegelhaupt: What makes a Mashable story different is the community. While it continues to grow every month, the reason they go to Mashable is the same. They are looking for the news, inspiration, and utility for the digital world around them.

HubSpot: Many of the early tech blogs have doubled down on tech, whereas you've done the opposite -- evolving into a more broad news outlet. Was there apprehension to going wider vs. deeper? Is the strategy working? How do you measure success?

Riegelhaupt: One of the biggest goals at Mashable is to provide our community with the subjects they are interested in and see how digital is changing the world around you. In order to accomplish Mashable needs to continue to grow as digital grows. When Jim Roberts joined in October 2013, one of the first hires he made was Andrew Freedman, Mashable’s Senior Climate Reporter. This was not only because Jim saw that people were discussing climate on every platform imaginable, but because he saw this as an issue that was only going to become a larger priority for The Connected Generation and those the future.

As Mashable continues to grow, so does its traffic. The company has seen great success as its community of 35 million uniques a month and 18 million social media followers continues to foster a dynamic global conversation.

HubSpot: Roberts was obviously a huge hire for Mashable. From an outsider’s perspective, it looked like a bellwether movement. Had the ‘beyond tech’ movement begun before his joining? If not, was his job to accelerate the evolution?

Riegelhaupt: For almost a decade the Mashable team built a growing digital media brand that sat at the intersection of technology, social media, entertainment, business, innovation, and culture. As Mashable has evolved, the team has continued to cover digital's reach. Hiring Jim Roberts was absolutely a huge step in expanding and developing content for those interested in seeing how digital is changing the world around us.

HubSpot: Does Mashable's social media savvy give it an advantage (e.g. Amanda Wills' coverage of Ferguson included well-curated Instagrams and Vines)?

Riegelhaupt: Mashable was one of the first media companies on Twitter and what has followed is the early adoption of everything from Facebook to Snapchat to Google+. One of the biggest priorities at Mashable is finding the best way to distribute our content to Mashable’s growing community in the most exciting and organic way possible.

HubSpot: Speaking of reach and distribution, what types of stories are most popular with your community?

Riegelhaupt: The stories that are the most popular with the Mashable community are those that provides our audience with utility, innovation, inspiration, and entertainment, whether that’s in business, travel, breaking news, or climate coverage, and across a variety of formats.

HubSpot: What’s next for Mashable?

Riegelhaupt: Continue to grow and build the next-generation media company.

Image credit: PlaceIt

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