Mashable, too, heads to Europe

September 24, 2014
Mashable headquarters. (Image courtesy Mashable)

Mashable headquarters. (Image courtesy Mashable)

Ask Mashable Executive Editor Jim Roberts about his plans for the future and he says — with tongue planted firmly in cheek — that he’s looking to achieve “global domination.”

That may seem ambitious for the top editor of a news organization that until this year had not expanded outside the U.S, but Roberts is serious when it comes to growing the site’s international audience.

On Tuesday, the company announced it would open a London office in October, naming former WorldIrish.com editorial director Blathnaid Healy its U.K. editor.

“I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what we can hope to see in terms of building a global audience,” Roberts said in a phone interview. “The subjects that we focus on really do have global appeal, whether it’s climate coverage or technology news or the latest in digital culture, viral content, memes — these are things that don’t necessarily adhere to geographic and physical boundaries.”

Roberts’ claims aren’t just talk. Over the past 18 months, Mashable — helped along by a $14 million infusion of capital — has doubled in size, adding 70 employees to its staff of 70. In June, the company announced its first international expansion, appointing former news.com.au multimedia editor Jenni Ryall Australian editor. In March, the company opened a Los Angeles office to better cover the entertainment industry. Earlier this month, Mashable moved to larger offices in New York City’s Flatiron district to accommodate its growing staff.

Mashable chose London because it’s a prime market for advertising, with a ready-made audience, said Seth Rogin, the company’s chief revenue officer.

“Mashable views the world from the lens of the Web and London is a supremely savvy and cultured place,” Rogin said in a phone interview. “It makes sense for us to be there.”

Staffers at the London office will have a threefold mandate, Roberts said. They will be charged with creating content relevant to the UK as well as Mashable’s general audience. They will report on regional stories of international import, such as the recent Scottish independence referendum. And they will also be a part of the company’s global editing team, charged with pushing out news 24/7.

Ultimately, the plan is to create a bureau that provides news, features, entertainment to a growing audience without losing sight of Mashable’s trademark tech coverage, Roberts said.

The online news organization’s dramatic growth roughly coincided with a couple of hires from legacy companies. Roberts, formerly executive editor of Reuters digital, was brought aboard in October. Rogin, formerly vice president of advertising at The New York Times, was hired in June 2013.

When he arrived at Mashable, Roberts says he brought with him a desire to cover stories of international import, including the turmoil in Ukraine, the rise of the Islamic State group and the turbulance in Gaza.

“One of my goals was to try to put us on a sound footing for stories people were paying attention to,” Roberts said.

He isn’t alone in this regard. With its expansions abroad, Mashable joins a growing list of other Web-focused news organizations with international ambitions:

  • In August, BuzzFeed announced it was expanding to Berlin, Mexico City, Mumbai and Tokyo.
  • Earlier this month, Politico announced a joint venture in Europe with Berlin-based media company Axel Springer.
  • Vice Media, fresh from a $500 million investment round from A+E Networks and Technology Crossover Ventures, is also increasing its footprint abroad with an expansion into India.
  • Business Insider is planning to launch Business Insider Europe, which will serve up “social-friendly content with a localized twist,” Ricardo Bilton writes for DigiDay.

But Roberts says he’s prepared to vie for international audiences despite the crowded field — not just with transplants from the U.S., but with any organization that draws eyeballs away from Mashable, including TV and radio.

“I think that I tend to view everybody as our competition,” Roberts said. “Anything that competes for somebody’s attention is our competition.”

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