Is Mashable, the rambunctious blog covering all things social, finally grown up? The site, founded by a 19-year-old Pete Cashmore in 2005, has decided its outgrown Federated Media, the publishing network founded by John Batelle, and is hiring its own sales force starting with Ken Detlet, former VP of sales at Ziff Davis.
Mr. Detlet will ultimately hire a staff of eight to handle sales, adding four sales people over the summer, which will put the Mashable employee total at 40. Mashable's contract with Federated ends in June; when it began in 2007, the blog had three employees.
"We want to stand on our own two feet and we have the critical mass that we need to stand alone, said Mr. Cashmore. "We've reached scale and got the editorial up to a quality and a structure that we wanted."
With 40 million monthly page views and 12 million unique visitors, Mashable was one of Federated's biggest tech blogs, and the latest to leave once it reached critical mass. TechCrunch left the network in 2009 and Digg left for Microsoft in 2007. Another tech blog, GigaOm, left Federated for IDG in 2008, but recently returned to the fold.
Other blogs have left Federated when they were acquired, such as Ars Technica when it was bought by Conde Nast, and Celebrity Baby Blog, acquired by People.com. Federated CEO Deanna Brown said that overall, less than 1% of their properties have parted ways with the network. "It happens very infrequently so there is no strategy in place and no concern on our part and our portfolio by design is very fluid," she said.
A total of 300 properties remain with Federated, including the Business Insider, Boing Boing, ReadWriteWeb, ApartmentTherapy and ArchDaily. Indeed, another Federated property, Trend Hunter Magazine, has almost double the monthly views of Mashable's, according to Federated stats. Ms. Brown said Mashable's departure "makes us feel like proud parents who are watching their kid graduate from college with honors."
Now that Mashable is on its own, it will focus on custom programs for consumer marketers such as Ford as well as display advertising and event partnerships.
Inherent in its focus on social media, Mashable's audience is key to its distribution by tweeting, sharing and "liking" articles, meaning the site has an overall reach that is greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, Mashable's readers are its best distributors, sharing 45,000 stories on Facebook and retweeting 60,000 links a day. Social media measurement service Klout named Mashable its "most influencial" media outlet.
The site also relies on old media for distribution, with syndication deals with partners like ABC, CNN, Forbes and USA Today.
Mashable and its advertisers now hope that the readers will help spread ad messages that appeal to the site's core readership, much the same way they do Mashable's editorial content. Ford Motors' Ford Explorer is currently sponsoring an "explore" tab that allows users to search through the site's evergreen content, such as tips and how-tos. Mashable cut the Ford deal on its own and has been able to market its events -- like the Mashable Awards -- to sponsors, including Ford and LG, which are willing to shell out to be there live with the Mashable audience.
"We know their audience is very active and we wanted to be in front of that audience," said Ford's digital marketing manager, Scott Kelly, who is measuring the campaign not by click-throughs but by how many people "liked" the Ford Explorer Facebook page from the Mashable links. Since June, the Ford Explorer page has 141,888 likes; by comparison, the Chevy Volt page has 50,265 likes and has been around a year longer.
"Federated has been wonderful to us," Mr. Cashmore said, adding that his readers are valuable to advertisers. "The people who are going to be the first on a lot of the new social networks or using any of the new social tools are reading Mashable and that's where the brands want to be, in front of that audience."