Many of the digital news organization that used to be called startups have outgrown the term — they’re established players by now. Among that group: the Axel Springer-owned Business Insider, which is turning 10. (Its Silicon Alley Insider brand officially launched July 17, 2007, though the earliest posts were a couple months before.)
The main site hit 50.8 million unique visitors this past May, according to comScore, up 15 percent from a year ago and placing it third behind Forbes Digital and Yahoo Finance in the business news sites category. Its research arm hit 7,500 subscribers the same month. And with a leg up from Axel Springer, especially in Europe, it continues to eye new countries for localized editions of BI.
“The digital media industry is just now hitting its stride,” Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget concluded as we were wrapping up an interview about the company’s goals as it hits the 10-year mark. “You will see a lot of brands over the next decade do extremely well.”
Some digital media companies, he suggested, are well positioned to grow as the television industry gets shaken up in the next decade or two:
Wang: I saw your future of digital media slides from 2016 where you highlighted the promise of social video, and those slides start with the fact that Google and Facebook are taking most of digital advertising revenue. How do you square spending all these resources, and are you wary of Facebook?
Blodget: There’s plenty of worry about everything, always. But first of all, the idea that we’re going to a 100 percent video world is crazy. There are hundreds of thousands of stories every day that are far better told in text than in video. Video is just an opportunity unto itself. We are working in a medium, along with all of the other digital folks, in which you can tell stories in four different ways: words, pictures, video, audio. All of those will continue to grow for the next several decades. It’s not either/or.In terms of the platforms, this is again something people are looking at in the wrong way. If you look at every other media business, there have always been distribution platforms and content creators. That is what’s evolving in digital, where you have Google, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. It’s very much a symbiotic business, where both sides are necessary. Our fastest growing revenue streams are coming from Facebook, Google, and others.
Those dynamics are important, but Facebook has been a wonderful partner, and we’re working very closely with them on midrolls, and a number of experiments they’re doing, including longer-form video. So no, we’re not worried.
Wang: Can you say more about the longer-form video you’re working on with Facebook?Blodget: So Facebook is creating a section for longer videos than are typically served within the feed. They’re working with a lot of partners to develop that, and we’re one of them.Wang: These will be news videos?Blodget: Well…they’re nonfiction. I wouldn’t call them news per se.Wang: So adding a lot of video, that’s not unusual. What has Business Insider been investing in that you think other media companies mostly are not but would be wise to do so? Things BI does that may seem against the grain right now.Blodget: I still feel that we’re still in the early years of what digital will ultimately become. The industry is similar to the cable industry in the late ’80s, early ’90s, where we’d gone from people thinking that “Oh, this is ridiculous, there’s no room for anybody but the big three — why would you ever form a 24-hour cable news network, that would never work!” That was the early ’80s. By the early ’90s, people said ‘Oh, okay, they work, but they can only grow so big.”....MORE