pdnonline.com JUNE 2017
PDN: What kinds of photo stories
is Mashable looking for?
DUSTIN DRANKOSKI: Originally,
Mashable was aiming to be a
general news site. About a year ago,
we narrowed our focus.
Now it’s a lot of tech stories,
a lot of entertainment stories,
a lot of science stories, and
it’s a lot of social good stories.
We do business stories too, but
business story photos are harder to
PDN: Are you assigning
photographers, or picking up
stories that photographers have
DD: We don’t do a ton of
assigning. Photographers usually
approach us with [unpublished]
work they’ve shot, or with
stories they’ve shot for other
publications, like Bloomberg or
The Wall Street Journal, to ask
if we’re interested in a different
take on the story. Sometimes
we are, and we’ll take a look at a
PDN: What are recent examples of
stories that you think were ideal
for Mashable’s audience?
DD: One story that was dead on
for us was about a couple that
built a floating home way off the
beaten path in Canada. Taehoon
Kim found the story and pitched
it, so we assigned him to go shoot
it. Another story was about a
town in Scotland that plays this
game called Ba’. That story was
by Sol Neelman, who is known for
shooting weird sports.
We’re looking for stories that
are off the beaten path, to the
left or to the right of a story that
everyone else is hitting. It can be
a tech story about how drones are
being used to stop poaching, or
a story about how a village in
Africa got a ton of solar panels,
and what that means [for how
they live]. We’re trying to
broaden the scope of what people
think stories about technology,
entertainment, the environment,
and other categories can be.
PDN: Do photographers have
to write the stories, too?
DD: Ninety-five percent of the
time we prefer photographers
write the story. First-person
experiential storytelling is really
having a moment right now. The
photographer has their own
experience when they shoot a
story, and I want to hear about
that experience, and [share it]
with the audience.
PDN: How long does the
text have to be?
DD: It totally depends on the story.
We have photographers who write
400 or 500 words, and that’s all
the story needs. But Amy Lombard
did a huge story for us about Wawa
[a regional convenience store
chain] and why it has such a cult
following in the Northeast. That
was an opus: 2,400 words, and we
were afraid it was too long [but] it
PDN: What other stories have
done really well for you?
DD: Johnny Milano came to us
with infrared pictures of the
Trump inauguration. It was a
weird dystopian look—an alternate
look at the inauguration, rather
than straight on, and it did really
well. Another story that did really
well for us was by a photographer
[Alasdair Turner] stationed in
Antarctica. Science stories do really
well for us. And environmental
stories are huge for our audience, so
we do a ton of those.
PDN: Who is a typical
DD: I think of our audience as
people between 20 and 35. We look
for niche stories, stories for people
who are obsessed with a thing, like
the Wawa story. We did a history
CLIEN T Q&A
MASHABLE’S DUSTIN DRANKOSKI
The art director of the tech and digital culture website explains what kinds of photo
stories he wants to publish, and how photographers should pitch them. BY DAVID WALKER
TOP : Stuart Palley photographed and wrote about the training of “smokejumpers,”
who fight forest fires by parachuting into them. ABOVE: Most photographers
also write the stories that appear on Mashable. Often they are short, but Amy
Lombard wrote “an opus” on Wawa, the convenience store chain.