Business Insider’s Carlson explains its growth strategy: Great stories from inside companies
When Business Insider global editor in chief Nicholas Carlson joined what was then a fledgling site called Silicon Alley Insider in October 2008, he saw how AOL employees would come to the website to look for news about the company.
The reason: It had broken news about layoffs at the company before executives could notify the workers.
“Those people started coming to us,” said Carlson. “I remember sitting at my desk and seeing 77 searches per hour coming to our site looking for AOL news.”
Business Insider wants to get back to its roots. The New York-based business news website announced last week that some of its coverage areas, such as sports, military and defense and science, will move over to its Insider.com website so that it can focus more on its goal of being the business news source of choice. According to reports, it plans to hire 47 new editorial staffers to expand its coverage of personal finance, careers, executive lifestyle, finance, markets, retail, Hollywood, media, autos, airlines, industrials, big agriculture, and enterprise tech.
“Business Insider is the largest business news publication in the world by reach and that’s great, but it’s not mission accomplished,” said Carlson in an interview on Thursday. “We think there is an opportunity to deepen our investment over a lot of coverage areas.”
Some of that added coverage, such as reporting on enterprise tech companies such as Cisco and Salesforce, will be behind Business Insider Prime, a paywall that launched earlier this year, said Carlson. But other areas, such as personal finance and executive lifestyle that has a broader audience, will be on the free part of the site.
There is no timeline for adding the additional staff members, said Carlson. “We’re going to do this carefully,” he said. “There is no hard deadline on when these decisions will be made. We want good storytellers.”
Carlson said that Business Insider is looking for reporters who can tell great stories about what’s going on inside companies, such as reporter Dakin Campbell‘s coverage of Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs.
“These people produce the classic business journalism stories from inside companies,” said Carlson. “They know what’s going on and can provide great news and analysis to employees, investors and analysts better than what management can provide. We think we can do great reporting inside companies across a lot of companies.”
Carlson was the founder and editor of Insider, which has been the company’s lifestyle brand, which launched in 2015. Within two years, it had 50 million followers and 2 billion video views. Moving stories about sports, military and defense and general news from Business Insider to that site is a way to broaden its reach and to allow the company to give those topic areas more focus.
“For Insider to get as big and influential as we want to, we needed to have these coverage areas on that site,” said Carlson. “And those topics will be in a position to tackle some topics more aggressively outside of Business Insider.”
The Berlin-based publisher Axel Springer bought an 88 percent stake in Business Insider for $343 million in 2015. Since that time, the business has expanded with sites in other countries.
While other online publishers are putting more of their content behind a paywall, Carlson said requiring subscriptions for some of Business Insider’s content is not a core part of its strategy.
“Some of the stories that are great reporting from inside companies will have enough scale that we don’t need to put them behind the paywall,” he said. “A lot of media companies right now are pivoting to subscriptions. We’re not pivoting. We’re carefully adding it to an already working business and scaling it through iterations and incremental improvements.
“We’re 10 years old, and we’re the biggest,” he added. “But it’s not mission accomplished. We are in a better position to really go for it and become the best loved and respected publication in the world.”