Adam Ostrow, the 27-year-old editor-in-chief of Mashable, started his career in Internet and tech marketing. He began contributing to Pete Cashmore's social media blog in 2007, while maintaining his own blog and software company. Ostrow talks to PRWeek about social media trends, Mashable's shifting audience, and the impact of multimedia pitches.
PRWeek: What's the biggest issue in Web technology and social media and in what way is Mashable addressing the issue?
Ostrow: Right now, the biggest issue we're tracking is mobile. I think that's the next big growth area in social media, and there are new and interesting smartphones hitting the market.
The way we're covering it really is both tracking the new devices coming out and also the applications, especially as they pertain to social media. [For example] how Twitter is adapting to mobile, and third-party applications being built around it.
PRWeek: Privacy issues are buzzy right now, especially following Mark Zuckerberg's statement on it no longer being a social norm. What's your take on that?
Ostrow: I think the onus is on the owner to take control of their privacy settings. In Facebook, Twitter, they all offer settings that allow you to control what it is you're sharing with the public. But if you look at stories where someone gets in trouble or fired from what they shared on social sites, it's not that they necessarily shouldn't have put it up in the first place, but they didn't pay enough attention to the privacy settings these sites give you.
PRWeek: Do you think people are more comfortable with being less private as a result of the social media boom over the past few years?
Ostrow: There's certainly a culture of sharing more information about yourself. There's that feedback element you can now get from social networks where it can actually be addicting to share more and more personal information about yourself. It's really that each person needs to find a balance of what's too much.
PRWeek: As the face of a social media and Web technology blog, do you feel compelled to participate in all of the new social networks?
Ostrow: I definitely feel it's necessary that I be active, especially on Twitter. Twitter has really become more of what I would say is my forward-facing brand and image. On Facebook, I'm a lot more selective as to who I let become a friend. With Facebook, I started in college and it was a very personal network for me.
PRWeek: What catches your eye at trade shows like CES?
Ostrow: I don't really think of what we do as a publication as saying this is the next Facebook or something like that. What I like to look at is how applications and companies and brands and gadget makers are looking at the main platforms in the space, which I consider Facebook, Twitter, YouTube— and integrating that experience into what they do. At CES this year, one of the bigger trends is the idea of the Internet becoming a part of everything. It's part of TVs now; it's a part of vehicles; it's obviously becoming a part of smartphones, and tablets. I like to look at the broader trends and what people are doing with the major platforms more so than any individual social network that's going to be the big next thing.
PRWeek: Are pre-show leaks effective in grabbing your attention?
Ostrow: If we can get our hands on something early, it definitely makes it a more attractive story for us. I think if you look at what companies are doing now, they're trying to do that. Look at what Google did with Nexus One. They announced it a day before CES started. I certainly think there's something to be gained.
Boxee had an event in New York in December a few weeks before CES, officially unveiling the device. They invited a whole bunch of press including myself, and we really knew all the details before the show. The show is just where we could actually play with it hands on.
PRWeek: Has the makeup of your audience shifted over the past couple of years, and how do you account for that in your coverage?
Ostrow: One of the most interesting things about our audience, especially compared to other sites that cover the tech space, is we have almost a 50/50 split between male and female. Part of the way that's happened is we've hired writers - about half of our staff is female – with diverse backgrounds. We have some people who have covered the marketing/advertising space, some who have worked hands on with startups. And if you look at where social media is going right now, it's affecting so many different industries that it's nice to have that diverse team as opposed to just 25-year-old male geeks.
PRWeek: What is your interaction with PR folks? How do you like to get pitched?
Ostrow: We have a general e-mail news box, firstname.lastname@example.org, which I'm largely responsible for. Generally speaking, I don't like to get unsolicited phone calls.
As far as a pitch format, we like something that's fairly short—bulleted points on why this matters to our audience.
Multimedia is also a big part of it. A lot of people who pitch us are still overlooking that. The less work we have to do, to have the video embed available, and good images, it's much easier to decide yes or no.