An Evaluation of Mashable: The Good and the Bad

In my first blog post, I highlighted a part of Mashable’s mission statement that called the “global, multi-platform media and entertainment company” the “go-to source for tech, digital culture and entertainment content.”

Now that we’ve reached the end of the semester, it’s time to evaluate: how well does Mashable live up to its claim of being a digital media pioneer?

To answer this question, I’ve analyzed what Mashable does well and what it doesn’t. Finally, I’ll include some recommendations for the company.

What Mashable Does Well:

  1. Mashable embraces a variety of platforms

In this day and age, it is crucial for any company to have a strong social media presence. For a news outlet, this is particularly essential because sometimes the best way to tell a story is through a medium other than text. Mashable authors actively post to the site’s YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram accounts, which allows them to share content that includes video, photos, and interactive graphics. Not only does creating content for these channels enhance the quality of pieces, but it also gives the company a greater potential reach. For example, Mashable’s target audience is mainly millennials, and they may be more likely to click on a Snap story or YouTube video than a text article published on the site.

YouTube Channel:

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Snapchat:

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Instagram:

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Example Mashable Instagram Stories:

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2. To enhance its content, Mashable incorporates multimedia components into its articles.

Mashable makes its articles more compelling and higher-quality by incorporating multimedia components such as charts, photos, and video. Including visual components make the articles much more interactive and engaging than text-heavy pieces.

Photo Story:Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 2.01.08 PM.png

Story that incorporates charts:

 

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Story that includes video:

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3. Mashable has its finger on the pulse of what people are saying.

Many Mashable articles include embedded tweets and Instagram posts from average citizens or celebrities that demonstrate how prominent individuals/the public feel about certain topics. This interactive element shows that Mashable authors care about peoples’ opinions pertaining to a variety of issues.

Article with embedded tweets, addressing opposing viewpoints:Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 2.26.04 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-12-08 at 2.26.13 PM.png

Emmy’s coverage included embedded Instagram posts:

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Where Mashable Misses the Mark

  1. @Mashable uses its Twitter account to broadcast tweets AT followers, rather than communicate WITH them

As I discussed in one of my blog posts, Mashable posts to its Twitter regularly, constantly posting links to the outlet’s own articles and videos. However, the company never reaches out to its followers to facilitate conversation–they never Retweet their tweets, reply to their questions, or ask for any feedback. The Mashable Twitter account has a whopping follower count of of 9.58 million, yet its tweets have extremely low interaction numbers for an audience that large, demonstrated in the two following examples. In short, Mashable is missing a major opportunity to connect with its audience, and for a company that prides itself on being digital innovators, it’s disappointing that the company doesn’t utilize Twitter to its full potential.

Example @Mashable tweets:

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2. Missed Opportunities on Instagram

Similarly, Mashable isn’t taking full advantage of its Instagram account. While the company posts a lot of original content and videos, the posts never include links to articles or relevant tags that would make the content easier for people to find.

Example Instagram post:

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For example, this post–a cute video of a puppy in a “doggy car seat”–could have included a tags of relevant Instagram accounts. If Mashable had tagged a dog-themed Instagram account, the video may have been re-posted, therefore increasing the number of viewers. Additionally, there could have been a few hashtags relating to dogs and technology, so that people searching for posts about these topics can easily find the video. Lastly, if there was an article written about this invention on the Mashable website, they could have included the link to the article to facilitate direct traffic from their Instagram to the article on their website.

3. Lack of category for Photo Stories on homepage 

In my opinion, one of Mashable’s most interesting categories is its photo stories; however, as I discussed in a previous post, they’re impossible to find if you aren’t looking for them. If I hadn’t been assigned to find a photo story for class, I would have never known to type “Photo Stories” into the search bar. Mashable is missing a huge opportunity by not incorporating a category for photo stories on its homepage.

Categories presented on homepage:

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To combat these missed opportunities, I have three suggestions for Mashable: 

  1. In addition to tweeting links to articles, use your Twitter account to converse with your audience.
  2. Utilize Instagram features such as hashtags and people and location tags to increase your chances of being seen. And don’t forget to include links to relevant articles that correlate with your posts.
  3. Make a category for photo stories on your homepage. The content is high-quality and creative, and deserves to be seen!

While there is room for improvement, I believe that Mashable successfully fulfills its mission to be a site that embraces digital media. By utilizing multimedia and a variety of platforms, Mashable sets itself apart from traditional news outlets that many not be as open to change. In the future, when traditional outlets are scrambling to get on Snapchat, Mashable will be one step ahead, most likely already embracing the “next big thing.”

….And that’s a wrap for my semester-long analysis of Mashable. Thanks for following along! What was your biggest take-away?

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Mashable Uses Data to Help Readers Find the Best Black Friday Deals

In need of a new TV? Laptop? Winter coat?

Many of us wait until the weekend after Thanksgiving to purchase big-ticket items in the hopes of scoring massive Black Friday savings.

But according to Patrick Kulp in “How to make sure Amazon doesn’t rip you off on Black Friday,” retailers advertise “lots of average prices masquerading as great deals.” By displaying price-tracking data in the form of infographics, Kulp directs readers away from misleading sales and shows them where they will get the most bang for their buck.

To illustrate whether a deal is “good,” Kulp links to charts from price-tracking firms Wikibuy and Camelcamelcamel. For example, Camelcamelcamel data reveals a deceptive  sale for one of Amazon’s “hottest Black Friday deals of the day,” a Hoover carpet-washing vacuum. The retail site lists the initial price of the vacuum as $220, claiming that for $99, consumers will save 55 percent.

However, “pricing data on Camelcamelcamel shows that Amazon hasn’t sold the vacuum for as high as the list price in nearly half a decade. The appliance has sold at an average price of $147 in the past five years, meaning the sales tag now is still a bargain but not nearly to the extent Amazon is advertising.”

Similarly, Kulp recommends readers turn to Wikibuy, which uses “data and input from its online community of cost-cutting enthusiasts to pinpoint some of the best deals online,” including a real-time tracking index.

In the article, Kulp incorporates the following graph from Wikibuy, which tests the claim that the discounted price of an XBox sold on Amazon is a “good Black Friday buy.”Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 5.21.38 PM.png

The article also sites a report from Google, which includes information about consumer behavior during the Thanksgiving week in recent years. The findings show that people are “doing more Black Friday research than ever,” that the concentration of shoppers at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday is decreasing, among other trends.

Kulp incorporates the following infographic from the Google report, which depicts how searches for “Black Friday ads” skyrocketed over “How to cook a turkey” searches in 2016.

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Overall, the graphics help readers easily understand whether or not a discounted item is a good bargain because they show changes in price over a period of time. Additionally, the graphs pertaining to consumer behavior allow the reader to understand the deeper context surrounding Black Friday sales in recent years.

Finally, embedded links to the data-tracking sites pose a convenient way for the audience to search for information about particular items and trends themselves.

Happy shopping!

Boston University Dance Marathon Live Twitter Coverage

Held at colleges across the nation, Dance Marathon has “raised over $200 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals since 1991” — and today, it’s happening at Boston University!

Hosted by the BU Panhellenic Council, the BU Dance Marathon includes teams comprised of sororities and fraternities, sports teams, and other university groups who will dance nonstop for 7 hours to benefit Boston Children’s Hospital.

Participants can meet patients treated at Boston Children’s, participate in games and raffles, and announce their fundraising totals.

Follow along on this post or on twitter @carolinestatile for live updates of the Boston University Dance Marathon!

Mashable Reports Breaking News Using Alternative Methods: Embedded Video, Tweets

In “Congressman repeats 4chan hoax that Sam Hyde is the Texas Shooter on CNN,” Gianluca Mezzofiore reports on the false accusations broadcasted live on CNN by Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, who claimed the gunman behind yesterday’s shooting at a Texas church was “prankster and comedian” Sam Hyde.

The article incorporates a short embedded video clip that shows the error as it was aired on CNN, allowing the reader to witness and hear the mistake as it was broadcasted live. Without the inclusion of the video, the reader may navigate away from the page to try and find the clip– perhaps via a report from another another news outlet. The integration of the video directly into the article encourages the reader to stay on the page, rather than exit to find the video from another competing news site.

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Additionally, the article includes a series of tweets by security analyst J.M. Berger (@intelwire) expressing his immense frustration at the situation. Juxtaposed with Berger’s angry tweets is a series of tweets in which users “confirmed” that the shooter was Sam Hyde. What follows is a tweet from NowThisNewsroom (@newsroom) denouncing another prominent hoax that has been circling the internet regarding the shooting.

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Tweets “confirming” suspect’s identity:

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@Newsroom tweet:

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The incorporation of these tweets not only brings various perspectives into the piece, but encourages user interaction, as readers can click directly onto the Twitter accounts mentioned in the article. Additionally, from an SEO perspective, the more people that click on inbound links, the better chance an article has at landing at a top spot on Google search results, so it is smart to incorporate ample relevant links.

As a final note, I noticed that when the reader highlights any portion of text within the article, an automatic prompt appears that offers to share what is highlighted directly to the user’s Facebook account. This feature makes it easy for people to share snippets of the article to their own social media platforms, and with the subject being the misidentification of a shooter, it is important that as many people as possible are aware of the error.

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Adobe Spark vs. Adobe Premiere: Which Video App Reigns Supreme?

My Adobe Spark Video:

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My Adobe Premiere Video:

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Conclusions:

Ease of learning:

  • Adobe Spark:
    • The user is greeted with a short, easy-to-follow video tutorial upon making an account
    • Highly easy to learn- didn’t require any prior experience with video editing apps
  • Adobe Premiere:
    • Instructions available as you use the app
    • Easy to learn- didn’t require prior video editing experience

Ease of use:

  • I found Adobe Spark very easy to use, for the following reasons:
    • Clean, easy-to-follow site design
    • Offers a variety of pre-set templates
    • You can drag in pre-recorded videos and photos
    • You can easily record your own voice-over
    • Has a large selection of pre-recorded music
    • You can quickly adjust length of video clip/photos
    • Offers pre-made themes, layouts, color palettes, and text options
  • I found Adobe Premiere easy to use, however not quite as easy as Adobe Spark. It succeeds in having:
    • Option to add both photos and videos
    • Ability to take video directly from the app
    • Variety of music and sound options
    • Large selection of pre-set filters
  • However, I found it more difficult to understand than Adobe Spark because…
    • Lack of an initial video tutorial
    • I tried to figure out how to add text for a long time before realizing I was unable to do so
    • Categories are not as organized as Adobe Spark – many features hidden within other tabs – for example, to find the photo filters, you have to tap on the gear icon to access “Project Settings,” then the “Look” tab.

Quality of story:

  • Adobe Spark:
    • Makes it easy to create a high-quality video because of all of the pre-set templates
    • But on the flip side, there isn’t much opportunity for customization
  • Adobe Premiere:
    • Allows for customization that is unavailable on Adobe Spark, such as the opportunity to adjust brightness levels/contrast, etc.
    • Options for transitions between clips- i.e. “Fade In from Black” and “Crossfade” to create cohesion throughout video
    • Inability to add text lessened the quality compared to Adobe Spark video because you cannot include useful textual info.

Comparisons to iMovie appInstagram, and Snapchat:

In my opinion, iMovie is more difficult to use than Adobe’s video app offerings. There are so many options and editing tricks that it can be very overwhelming to learn. However, I think that iMovie’s abundance of features makes it easier to create high quality films. In terms of video quality, I think Adobe Spark and Premiere fall in the middle between iMovie and the social media apps Instagram and Snapchat. Instagram and Snapchat offer users more streamlined options in terms of editing video stories- both allow the creator to add filters, a geotag (a useful feature that is not prevalent in the other aforementioned editing apps), text, and stickers. Snapchat also allows users to add their customized Bitmojis to video clips, or emojis that are designed to resemble the creator. All platforms allow the user to save their stories, but Snapchat videos get saved as consecutive 10-second bursts rather than one continuous story.

 

Overall, I enjoyed using Adobe Spark more than Adobe Premiere because I found it easier to learn and use. In comparison to Instagram and Snapchat stories, I felt that my Adobe video was of higher quality. I could see myself publishing an Adobe Spark video to YouTube or to a blog, while uploading stories to Instagram and Snapchat more for the social aspect of sharing quick clips.

Pictures Worth 1,000 Words: Evaluating Mashable’s Photo Stories

In general, Mashable is an image-heavy website. The site’s incorporation of a large amount of visuals makes sense, considering that its primary audience is 25 to 34-year-olds, a generation that holds a staggering presence on photo-centric sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

Upon arriving at the Mashable homepage, users are greeted with a plethora of visuals: the ever-changing large photo banner accompanying the “top” story at the time, video thumbnail images, and photos that accompany every article on the main page and sidebar. Overall, I find the home page to be aesthetically intriguing and encouraging of user interaction.

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In addition to the visuals that accompany most Mashable stories, the site has a specific category for photo stories — articles that rely primarily on high quality visuals to tell a narrative. This section of the site provides stunning photographs that tell interesting stories; however, the only reason I found this category is by searching “Photo Stories” in the search bar on the homepage. I think the site could benefit greatly by creating a tab on the homepage specifically for these kinds of stories, rather than sprinkle them into the “normal” content and sorting them with a Category tag.

One example of a recent photo story published in this category is “Made in Napoli,” by Camillo Pasquarelli, who serves as both the photographer and author of the piece. The story offers readers a peak inside the unique music scene of Naples, shining a light on the region’s most famous pop stars who are practically worshipped by Neapolitan fans, but are likely little-known to the rest of the world.

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The title image is immediately captivating to the reader and is in fact what made me click on the story. The large, high-quality photograph depicts a burst of color and liveliness; the pink smoke and gyrating bodies dressed in vibrant, grungy outfits practically beg the reader to click on the accompanying article.

The piece alternates short paragraphs of text with various images that highlight the flamboyant Neapolitan recording artists and their devoted fanbases. Some of the images are formatted as single, full-page photos, while others are arranged in smaller groupings (both exemplified below), offering a range in visual style that keeps the reader stimulated.

Single, large image example:

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Grouping of images example:

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In terms of the accompanying text, I found that the reporter made a few grammar mistakes, and that overall, the writing could be stronger. However, I clicked on the article mainly to scroll through the photographs, and I believe that the article serves its purpose of informing readers about the little-known phenomenon that is the Neapolitan devotion to local superstars.

I am impressed with Mashable’s photo story section and find that each article includes intriguing, high quality visuals that greatly enhance what could have otherwise been a less interesting, text-heavy piece. Honestly, I found myself kind of addicted to clicking through this section of Mashable, as the stories and visuals are extremely well thought-out and engaging.