In Defense of Business Insider (sort of)

Since everyone is going to weigh in on the Business Insider Debate I guess I could throw something together…

When I first started reading financial blogs, they were the “emerging markets of the financial web” and it was all very exciting.  There was even a BRIC, although truthfully it was BRYC:

Business Insider
Yves Smith
Crossing Wall Street

There were others but those were my first four I really latched onto, followed by Dealbreaker, Calculated Risk, Long or Short Capital, my Mish phase (smart guy, too negative), 1-2 Knockout, Denninger, Jeff Miller, Baseline Scenario (yawn), Abnormal Returns, 1440 Wall Street, Kedrosky, Dinosaur Trader, iBankCoin and on and on.  The blogosphere has come a long way since the 2005 – 2009 era but The Business Insider has truly exploded since those protean days our art form.  The Business Insider was originally a tech blog called Silicon Alley Insider with the offshoot Clusterstock as its first foray into Wall Street blogging if I recall correctly (the Blodgetologist from Columbia J School I called to consult for this post was unavailable at press time).

Now, as The Business Insider, they are everywhere and blogging every single story of the day.  I went to the dentist last Wednesday and when I got back to my computer there was a slideshow about it (sample caption: And now here is the third x-ray of Josh’s lower bicuspids).

I bring this up because there’s a big article at Reuters by Ryan McCarthy this week celebrating the best of what The Business Insider does and chiding it for its worst characteristics.

A lot of the hatred that the mainstream media has for Business Insider is borne of jealousy; BI is faster on the draw with data and breaking news.  This is mainly because Joe Weisenthal is an animal.  When something breaks and I can’t wait for Google to index it, I know that BI has it posted already.  I know it for a fact that it will be there, at 4 am or 9 pm.  Ya gotta admit, that’s pretty gangsta.

But what Ryan is saying is also accurate – BI makes use of everyone else’s “reportage” and barely links back out or acknowledges that a journalist may have taken days (weeks!) to get the story and verify the facts and strategize with an editor etc. And Business Insider will often simply rewrite the reporter’s article rather than simply link out to it.  I do two daily linkfests, 5 days a week, if I’m not adding anything to someone else’s work I’d rather you read it there for the most part.  Business Insider would rather you read it on their site.  Ya gotta admit, that’s pretty f***ed up.

I am unsure how to reconcile the awesomeness of what Business Insider does with the cheesier side.  I like the site a lot and my work frequently appears there.  I also like every single person I’ve ever met that works there.  I guess reconciliation of these two sides is probably unnecessary in the end.

But if I were a Reuters or a Bloomberg I’d probably be a lot less cool about it.  I’d probably look at The Business Insider and its sprawling verticals (they now cover pet grooming, the Olympics, the Royal Wedding, the weather etc) as the emerging markets of content, making in-roads against my Developed Market economy, employee base and economic situation.  I might even try tariffs or some other form of protectionism – likely out of spite because it wouldn’t work in the reality of our free-for-all internet.

So maybe I’d just write an article reminding people of what TBI is really doing to attain those 12 million uniques.  And while writing that article might be momentarily satisfying, I’d have to acknowledge the fact that the readers themselves simply don’t care.  They’ll take the content wherever they can get it, fairness never enters into it.

Just as developed market consumers are happy to buy China-made goods at Wal-Mart for a fraction of the price, so too are news-seeking readers happy to visit Business Insider, the Emerging Market of the Financial Web.

So don’t blame Henry, blame the visitors – the teeming masses of visitors that – tricked or not – continue to show up day after day.








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