If AOL buys Mashable — or just sells the monster tech blog's ads — it will be banking less on journalism than on the site's network of members, Twitter fans and party groupies. Banking, that is, on Pete Cashmore's hotness.
It's not a terrible investment; Cashmore's panting fans ogle him at Mashable parties, endlessly retweet his site's articles and even post topless pictures of themselves on Mashable's burgeoning (and infamous) internal social network. Details showed how the vest-loving Scot reels in the ladies (and money-hungry male entrepreneurs) in the magazine's Oct. 2008 article, "Playboys of Tech:"
At the party, Cashmore high-fives his fans, throws himself into two-armed hugs, and drapes his arms around swooning women. There's a line of people waiting to be photographed with him...Cashmore's photographer, Mike, gets yelled at by a couple of girls because he didn't take their picture with Cashmore...[Cashmore:] "There are competitive advantages to this kind of visibility, you know."
Naturally: Within eight months, Cashmore and his female-heavy (for tech) audience had surpassed Mike Arrington's TechCrunch to become the most popular tech blog, at least according to Compete.com and Quantcast. The lead has since widened. But could AOL maintain it without Mashable's party-boy-in-chief? Not immediately; if the newly-independent internet conglomerate does buy Mashable, expect a long earn-out for Cashmore.
The lock-up agreement must eventually come to an end, of course, but perhaps by then AOL will have found another smoldering young editor to take over the site. Here are some Cashmore pictures that should help with the recruiting — and that show just what sort of attactive powers AOL is purportedly eyeballing: