I've been paying closer attention to Mashable lately. If you aren't familiar with the site, it prides itself on covering all aspects of social media, and even has the tagline "The Social Media Guide". The site has been growing like a weed for months, and every new post gets hundreds of RTs on Twitter.
But what's caught my attention recently is the content of the posts. As the site continues to grow, it seems to be moving away from just covering social media, to more broader 'news' stories.
For example, here are some of the titles of posts that have appeared on the site just in the last week:
Tiger Woods Injured in Car Accident
This is Why You're Fat: Thanksgiving Meals Average 2,200 Calories Per Serving
Black Friday Deals Online: 5 of the Best Tech Bargains
Want to Buy a Dual-Screen Laptop? Now You Can
Blackberry Deals and More: Carriers Celebrate Black Friday
Black Friday: Best Buy's Deals Include $200 HP Laptop
There are many other posts where the social media connection is a bit hard to see, to put it kindly. Now I understand why Mashable is writing and posting about Tiger Woods and Black Friday Deals; because it will get the site a flood of traffic.
But in the process, Mashable is losing its focus as being 'The Social Media Guide'. And it's an easy mistake for content creators to make. Hell the first time I had one of my posts picked up by TechMeme and saw a sudden crush of traffic, I was tempted to change my writing to get listed there again.
I think this is an important lesson for all of us to keep in mind; to not get intoxicated by the rush of tweets and traffic that might come from writing a post that's not the focus of your blog/site. Sure, it's great when the traffic starts shooting up, but if you aren't staying with the content that GOT you to where you are now, then you're leaving the door cracked open for the competition. In fact now would be a great time for a competitor to launch a site that's super-focused on social media, that can crank out several posts a day. If the posts are high-quality, and if Mashable keep veering away from covering just social media stories, then the opportunity would be there for the new site to establish itself as the 'new' Guide to Social Media, and occupy the area that Mashable is moving away from.
We have a sayin' down South that you 'Dance with the one that brung ya'. This applies to your online content as well, don't lose focus of what got your blog/site its readership in the first place. And don't confuse traffic with readership. The former is often fleeting, while the latter are the people that stick around.