Mashable, a blog that tags itself with the line "social networking 2.0," has emerged as a leading source for news and analysis of the hyperactively growing nebula of web products and services that fall loosely under the handle of "social media" or "web 2.0" (think everything from social networks to widgets to new fangled web communities to analysis of web start-ups and everything in between).
Mashable is now issuing an intriguing offer to its readers, which it calls Mash 10: write a well written story that reviews start-up companies in a given space (Mashable honcho Pete Cashmore uses the examples of "19 Ways to Make Social Sites Pay" and "MySpace Layouts Top 10") and get paid around $.07 per word for doing so.
When done right, this kind of story has the chance to become very popular. Blog readers love Top Whatever lists, and followers of online media deeply appreciate sources that can break down the explosive growth of the industry and help to define and parse what is going on in various sub-spaces. For example, there are hundreds and perhaps even thousands of start-ups hoping to achieve some glimmer of MySpace's popularity. Who is going after the Austrailian market, though? Are college football fans being tended to? What about Star Trek convention peoples?
These are all areas that are potentially worthy of exploration (along with several trillion others) and it's intriguing that Mashable is seeking research and writing from its own readers for help in doing this. The money part is also a rather fascinating experiment. Let's say that Mashable pays a reader $70 for a 1,000 word piece. Will the site make that money back and more in advertising revenue generated around the popularity of one story? It's certainly possible. More likely though is that if 100 stories are bought and paid for, three or five or ten of them may help to bring the site increased long term readership and help to bring it closer to the TechCrunch range in terms of popularity.
The most challenging part about this experiment, I imagine, will be fielding responses from writers, discarding the junk, helping the good stuff to shine, managing the relationship with writers, and handling the money exchange. In other words, organizing and running any kind of editorial operation – particularly where money is involved – is labor intensive.
I hope that Mashable reports back on how Mash 10 plays out. If it manages to harness the skills, intelligence, and research powers of its own readership, look for other ambitious and growing sites to try something similar.