Chasing News, Chasing Dollars

Business Insider was just given $7 million dollars from venture capitalists and a hard time by Felix Salmon of Reuters.

Salmon is a financial journalist, and his nose is out of joint because he feels Business Insider is lifting a bit too much from AP and other sources.

When media companies are asked to grow at a meteoric pace — and Comscore indicates that Business Insider’s unique visitors have nearly doubled this year — the line between original content and borderline theft gets awful blurry. The editorial mission quickly transforms from “What can I link to?” to “How much can I take?”

To be fair, Business Insider’s more prominent pieces are often its most original. But journalists and readers should be very worried when fast-growth media companies determine the standards for distinguishing between citation and theft.

Everything is a mashup. Reuters, Business Insider and AdPulp all take press releases and make something new from them. We also react to previously published stories, again repurposing them for our own audiences.

Salmon is making a judgement call. He doesn’t mind the act of aggregating–he’s a blogger himself. But for him over-aggregation is a violation and an unnecessary insult.

To my eye, Business Insider can also be faulted for design choices that promote pageviews over utility for the customer. The site routinely uses slideshows to accumulate up to 10 pageviews on one article, when the content presented could more efficiently be served up in one page. That sends a message, and it’s not one that benefits the Business Insider brand.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.