Mashable is a media & entertainment company with over 48 million followers across a variety of social media platforms. Millions of users view Mashable content each day on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and the company’s website. If a news story is trending online, they likely have an article covering the topic.
Mashable launched in 2005, a year after Facebook and a year before Twitter. Just 12 years later, it sold for close to $50 million.
So, who is responsible for the growth of Mashable? How did the company become one of the fastest-growing digital publishers? Where does the company have planned next? In the following article, we examine the history of Mashable & the person behind its success.
Mashable Started as a Blog Written by a Teenager
Pete Cashmore founded Mashable in 2005 as a simple WordPress blog. Four years later, Time Magazine voted Mashable one of the top blogs of 2009. Success came quickly for the online publication, which makes the founder’s story even more interesting.
Instead of a background in Silicon Valley & an Ivy League degree, Cashmore graduated from secondary school and chose not to attend college. He launched his blog at the age of 19 from his parent’s home in rural Scotland.
According to Cashmore, he had an appendectomy at the age of 13 that required years of recuperation. He spent a large portion of his teenage years resting at home and missed a lot of school. The emerging internet became his escape.
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw the rise of the internet and increased interest in technology. Pete Cashmore saw this as an opportunity. He wanted to help people discover the latest gadgets and learn more about the newest technologies available. His overall goal was to help decipher the massive amount of technology news for a mainstream audience.
He devoted all his available time to his new project. He created Mashable on his own and was the sole author of the blog’s articles. The Mashable articles mostly covered technology and digital media news and included two to three updates per day.
Pete spent 20 hours per day writing articles to keep up his pace. The website originally had no advertisers, which meant that he wasn’t making money yet. He continued typing away without telling his parents exactly what he was up to. 18 months later, the website was reaching over two million active readers each month.
How Did Mashable Achieve Such Quick Success?
The success of the website led the Daily Mail to write an article on the young founder, which is also when his parents discovered how their son had spent his time for the past couple of years.
Part of the success of Mashable may also be due to timing. Mashable was founded just as social media was capturing the public’s attention. People were starting to spend more time on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Sharing links to blog articles was a common daily practice for hundreds of millions of people.
Yet, timing is only part of the reason behind Mashable’s success. Pete Cashmore also ensured that his website offered the following: Covering the latest trends, High volume of content, Easy-to-digest blog articles
Cashmore was obsessed with increasing readership. He looked at the website traffic and metrics for his site each day in the hopes of beating the previous day’s stats. To continue growing his audience & keep people coming back, Pete ensured that he covered the most popular topics. Writing about technologies that people are interested in helped Mashable attract readers.
He knew that people wanted to know more about Silicon Valley and the latest tech news, also that most of his audience would likely be found in the United States instead of his native Scotland. He adapted his sleep pattern to better fit the US news cycle and soon started writing several articles per day.
Producing a high volume of content helped Mashable attract more readers. It allowed the website to continue building off its success. People loved sharing Mashable articles with their friends and family on Facebook or Twitter. Providing people with a constant source of new content helped them capitalize on the momentum.
Mashable was also successful due to the style of its content. Their blog articles were easy to digest, allowing readers to quickly scan an article instead of having to read every single line.
Mashable Hires an Editorial Staff to Pump Out New Content
After a couple of years as the sole author behind Mashable, Pete Cashmore knew that he needed help. Growing his website would require even more content and he was already overworking himself. Pete started hiring editorial staff to help write new blog articles. The editorial team eventually grew to include 43 paid staff members. Mashable was able to increase its output to 7 to 15 articles per day.
As Mashable and the internet soared in popularity, the type of content found on the website started to gradually change. Most of the articles revolved around social media news and meme culture. Mashable developed a reputation as a source of lighthearted articles on the latest trends and memes. The company was appealing to the interests of its general audience and the effort paid off for a while.
By 2013, Mashable was attracting over 22 million visitors each month. It was one of the most visited blogs at the time. However, they also had a major competitor to deal with.
BuzzFeed Overtakes Mashable as the Top Site for Social Media News
BuzzFeed was a direct competitor that was gradually chipping away at Mashable’s audience. In 2011, they hired former Politico reporter Ben Smith to launch a serious new operation.
Instead of focusing on humorous and trendy stories, BuzzFeed started reporting on serious topics and its readership increased. The website was attracting over 40 million visitors per month throughout most of 2013. In December 2013, BuzzFeed received over 130 million unique visitors.
The team at Mashable decided to try emulating BuzzFeed’s strategy. In 2014, Mashable hired former New York Times assistant managing editor Jim Roberts. Roberts was hired as the company’s executive editor and chief content officer.
Roberts brought in other serious news veterans & soon started producing content outside of the world of entertainment. The change in strategy seemed to work at first. Their traffic increased to over 27 million unique visitors in December 2015.
Between 2014 and 2015, Mashable also started obtaining funding from venture capitalists. The company used its millions in funding to expand rapidly. Mashable soon opened offices in New York City, the UK, India, and Australia.
Mashable had over 300 employees at its height and attracted an average of 25 million unique visitors each month. However, the company was still outpaced by BuzzFeed.
Facebook Starts Sending Mashable Less Traffic
In 2015, Facebook made changes to the way its algorithms deliver articles to people’s news feeds. Mashable and other blogs started receiving significantly less traffic. According to former employees, the push for video content made the situation at Mashable worse. Mashable was focused on producing serious news videos that failed to find an audience.
In 2016, Mashable gave up on its ambitions to report serious news & returned to its roots. The company got rid of Roberts and laid off an additional 30 employees. Unfortunately, the change was too late. The company continued to shed visitors each month.
By June 2017, Mashable was receiving just 13 million unique visitors per month, which was half the number of visitors received during the company’s peak.
Mashable Is Sold to Ziff Davis for Close to $50 Million
In 2017, just 12 years after founding his company, Pete Cashmore agreed to sell Mashable to Ziff Davis for close to $50 million.
Ziff Davis was founded in 1953 by Bill Ziff Sr. and Bernard Davis. Ziff was the publisher behind the William B Ziff Company, which started as an advertising agency in 1920. The company soon started publishing magazines, including Popular Aviation and a wide range of hobbyist magazines.
Ziff Davis didn’t wait long to start restructuring Mashable. The new owner immediately focused on making the website more profitable, which involved laying off over 50 workers at locations across the globe. A year later, Pete Cashmore left the company he started from his parent’s home in Scotland.
Future Plans for Mashable
Mashable was once one of the most popular blogs. In the early 2010s, a large portion of the blog articles shared on Facebook & Twitter came from Mashable. The company attracted over 27 million unique visitors at its height.
Unfortunately, the company was unable to maintain its popularity. In 2015, Mashable tried to start producing serious news videos in a bid to keep up with BuzzFeed. Before long, the company was in decline and sold off.
Mashable remains a popular site. Ziff Davis is a company with over 100 years of advertising experience and a long track record of managing print and digital publications. Mashable now attracts more visitors than it did during Pete Cashmore’s time with the company.
In the end, the story of Mashable demonstrates the need for persistence and dedication. In the early days of the company, Pete Cashmore spent up to 20 hours per day writing blog articles. He built one of the most popular digital news sites but should have perhaps stuck to his original plans of reporting on technology and popular culture.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.