Mashable Growth Strategy – Growth Hacking Case Study
In 2005, then 19-year-old Pete Cashmore founded Mashable from his home in Aberdeen, Scotland because he wanted to do something productive — from bed. In its earliest iteration the site was a blog that focused on social media news.
Four years later, Time magazine named Mashable among the 25 best blogs for 2009 and it had become a destination point for readers seeking tech coverage.
Initially, Cashmore did nothing more than try to find compelling content, most of it regurgitated from other sources, re-cast the material in a tone his core audience would enjoy, and hopefully pay for it all with Google ads.
He closed his first real ad deal in 2006. That brought in a few thousand dollars a month, which he used to hire a small staff. His philosophy has been one of doing as much as possible with very few resources and always re-investing in his product. Along the way, he also legitimized the idea of blogging as a business.
In multiple interviews over the years, Cashmore has described his position on keeping Mashable what he calls “consumer facing.”
User experience is everything
…as that relates to reporting and curation that puts interesting and potentially useful material in front of the reader — again, the concept of market fit.
As other sites like Quora have found out, in spite of the text-intensive nature of the web, users don’t necessarily like to read, and they are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of potential content. Mashable’s focus is on curating or aggregating stories of interest to their audience, thus acting as both a filter and a timesaver. The payoff is both user engagement and brand loyalty.
By 2009, Mashable boasted 5 million visits per month, a number that grew to 12.5 million by 2012. In 2013, Cashmore declined to sell the site to CNN, announcing in January 2014 that his company had raised $13.3 million in an equity investment, the first time Mashable has taken on outside investors.
The money will be used to fuel Mashable’s one consistent growth engine — content. The site continues to derive its revenue from advertising, and has been a leader in the emerging field of branded or native content, which is ads that look like news.
In some cases the material will carry a tagline reading “sponsored by” or “presented by” the advertising corporation. In others, Mashable is paid to write material on a given theme with the company’s ads running alongside the story. Since the site now attracts 30 million unique visitors around the globe each month, the potential reach of that kind of marketing is highly attractive to companies.
The common thread in all of Mashable’s content is speaking to the millennial generation and people who think like them. The site now covers tech, business, social media, entertainment, and a host of other topics from a web-savvy perspective.
In many ways the Mashable story is very old-fashioned, one-man-with-a-vision tale, while in another, it is an example of single-minded understanding of market focus with inherent flexibility to shift with the prevailing interest. Regardless, the growth has been impressive and highly effective.