Content Kings: Mashable Follow Deeper Dive

This is part of a series on websites which mainly provide content, generating money from ad traffic. It’s a comparison between Mashable and Gawker’s redesigns, with an AOL and Gawker comparison to follow. We’ll be seeing some new changes at AOL very soon, but right now my favorite Content King change is Mashable Follow, which I think shows the “right” direction for dealing with Web 4.0. (My apologies for “deeper dive”. I know too many PR strategists and we say things like that.)

Background: Mashable uses Bing as a search engine, which is integrated with Facebook, although I’m not completely sure how. Bing also was ranking based on social media clout before Google was. Mashable has prominent “Tweet This”, “StumbleOn”, and “Like This” buttons for its content. Other options are “email”, “Buzz”, “MySpace”, “Blogger”, “Digg”, “Windows Messenger” and “AIM”. You can search for other services in a little box depending on what you use. They did a very cool partnership with Foursquare, which is looking like the “winning” geo-location service. Following Mashable on Foursquare provides content based on your location.

Mashable’s new Follow is an example of Social Content Curation. They are moving with netizens and tech companies to an integrated model, where you have a single “profile” which content feeds into. Since you pick the topics you are your own curator and Mashable “knows” what you like through those choices. This means in the future they can “suggest topics” as they arise like “iPad 3”, retain data on the posts you actually click on, and its easier to track where traffic is coming from, as well as key topics.

You can still share across any of your chosen platforms, the sign-in merely becomes a channel for receiving notifications. There are more options to subcribe to channels than topics: RSS, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Digg. In addition Mashable suggests you follow them on Tumblr, an App on your iPhone, Android or Kindle, a Youtube, Flickr or Vimeo channel…and this post just became keyword optimized for every social media channel out there. This is one of the main differences with Gawker who’s redesign only allows sharing through Facebook, although you can sign in with email or Twitter.

I actually read the terms of service, which mainly prohibit offensive or illegal content creation. There was one part I found amusing: “Company is not responsible for the accuracy, usefulness, safety, or intellectual property rights of or relating to such Content. You further understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to Content that is inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable.” The service terms also prohibit spiders and a host of automated widgety things from accessing and reproducing their content. (Uh isn’t Google a spider?)

The terms of service also refer to “voting” mainly in surveys, but could have interesting implications should Mashable go to a Quora-like model. For now, the “voting” works on the “Sharing” site where you can see which topics are being shared the most, or on the main site where a list of the most followed topics shows the “trends”. There is also a list of “top stories” in the righthand column, which I think is based on views, since many top stories don’t necessarily have the most shares or comments. When you enter the Beta version your have a personalized trending topics page.

Now for my Gawker profile, which is kind of like Gawker’s redesign, embarrassingly bare. I’ve been a Gawker member for awhile and received one of their lovely “sorry we got hacked” emails which didn’t make me to eager to use their commenting service again. When I signed in today I used the same account, which goes through Twitter. I was prompted with a sign-in asking for my AOL screenname and blog. My AOL screen name is “angilO1”, which seemed very appropriate for a thirteen year old Catholic schoolgirl. Now, not so much. My profile:
Why do I have no “friends”? Apparently none of the people I know on Twitter are on Gawker…I also have no “Posts” or “Feeds” because Gawker needs to load connection to Twitter (which takes forever), and I haven’t posted anything in the last five minutes to my blog.

Takeaways:

Overall though, Mashable’s move toward friend or “social content curation” is leaps and bounds ahead of the Gawker redesign, and a great example of Web 4.0.

But it’s not perfect. It’s work to select topics, potential still for content overload, and lazy people like me may not want to bother self-curating. I think Twitter handles based on their channels and hashtags will continue to be best way for people to “follow” and make sure content stays in a social browser, or even traditional RSS feeds as in their channels.The real value add for Mashable Follow may not be to the consumers, but to the company itself with the tracking and targeting capable in a profile based content feed: In other words targeted advertising.

These ads could get pretty obnoxious, and one way to avoid them is a social browser. If social browsers begin to dominate, Mashable will have to change things again. They’re definitely going to have to integrate their Twitter directory to make it easy to search for names as new followers are added and people need to find their friends.

Of course if Twitter gets bought, bye bye Tweetdeck.

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