Mashable, once the darling of online publishing has been sold to conglomerate Ziff Davis for less than $50 million. This is bad news for online publishing at every level but is especially upsetting given that as late as 2016, Mashable was valued at approximately $250 million.
Ziff Davis has scored a real bargain, with this being their first entrance into high-quality journalistic level content. Traditionally, the business runs high volume, low-quality sites that make money through affiliate links. The fact that they are purchasing a quality organisation like Mashable says a lot for the difference between high-quality content, and commercial outcomes.
Founder Pete Cashmore will remain with the company and tried to put on a brave face despite the obvious and bitter disappointment. He explained that the acquisition was a good move for all parties and that through the terms of the agreement, Mashable would refocus on what it was originally designed for – technology news.
Sadly, this refocus will mean that anyone not involved in this niche area will be surplus to requirements at Mashable and as a result, around 50 roles will be made redundant.
All of this makes sense, but what does the future hold for Mashable? There must be significant concerns by Cashmore and Mashable’s senior editorial staff, who will be well aware of the Ziff Davis reputation – pump out content quickly, and measure effectiveness based on affiliate clicks. This stands in direct contrast to the existing ethos which demands high quality, well researched editorial content that is referenced by other news sites as a matter of course. In saying that, a reset for Mashable and a streamlined focus on technology news wouldn’t be a bad idea. In fact, the business probably lost its way and got caught up in the diversity of audience numbers, rather than trying to work to increase, “depth,” of content and delight existing readers.
The next few months will be interesting at Mashable headquarters, and hopefully, this isn’t the beginning of the end for the site.