Social layers are a tricky thing for online news site. Both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today have failed in their attempts, and Eric Schmidt, the now deposed CEO of Google may have lost his job because of it. Mark Zuckerberg back in December admonished Schmidt's attempt at socializing Google with the quip, "Social is not a layer you add- you have to design it from the ground up." Nonetheless, Mashable has thrown their hat into the social ring, complete with badges to boot!
On February 8, Pete Cashmore's Mashable - one of the top ten rated blogs on the Web today - will add its new social layer in a beta launch he is calling "Mashable Follow."
According to their blog post, Cashmore wants to transform his site from a "purely editor-driven news site" to becoming a "true news community that seeks to engage" its readers in curating the news that's important to them and their followers. "Beyond personalization, we believe that curation is the next great wave in news, and empowering our community to choose the news of the day is the ultimate aim of the Follow project," adds Cashmore.
With stats like this, it is hard to argue that Mashable may have a better shot at going social than the some of the failed attempts by others.
If you're a Mashable reader, Cashmore claims that you are among the most engaged news consumers on the Web, for the following reasons:
Given that social media-ites love to share, Mashable will be making the sharing process a lot easier, as a result of these changes. By allowing readers to add their Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz (does anybody still use this) and Digg (how about this one?) to their profile pages, users will be able to share with one "Mashable" click.
- Social influence service Klout named Mashable the Most Influential Media Outlet, while a Hewlett-Packard study ranked @mashable the most influential Twitter account, based on retweeted links.
- Thanks to their 3,400,000+ strong community across social platforms, Mashable articles are retweeted more than 40,000 times per day and shared on Facebook more than 40,000 times per week.
- The site has been able to grow beyond 12 million unique visitors per month and become the world’s largest independent web technology news site.
And not to escape the influence of location-based social networks like Foursquare, Mashable will also be handing out badges as incentives for sharing stories, connecting with other Mashable Follow users, commenting on articles and following topics curated and vetted by one's followers.
So what do you think readers? Does Mashable have a shot at adding a social layer, or will it follow in the doomed footsteps of Google and some of the other news sites? Somehow - being all things to all people and having your cake and eating it too - doesn't have a great track record as far as social media is concerned. While it's not a case of biting off more than you can chew, it's more like loading up on carbs for a race that's just about over.
In my humble opinion, I am somewhat skeptical. Even though its the one news site that's been following the evolution of the Web for over 6 years now, the curation of news from followers isn't exactly earth-shattering news. In fact, its almost outdated - particularly since many are forecasting our entry into Web 3.0, the Internet of Things and semantic technology (see what HuffPo is doing in this regard) that will curate news by machines versus humans. While adding a social media layer sounds like the right thing to do, Mashable is going to need to do a little more than adding badges and the Old Spice Man on a horse to make it an effective enterprise that actually breaks new ground.