Insider Co-Founder Blodget Steps Down Amid Strategy Shift

From a Wall Street story by Alexandra Bruell headlined “Insider Co-Founder Henry Blodget Steps Down as CEO Amid Strategy Shift”:

Henry Blodget, one of the early pioneers of digital media, is stepping down as chief executive of Insider, a publication he co-founded more than 15 years ago.

The move comes as Insider, now a unit of German publishing giant Axel Springer, is changing its name back to Business Insider as part of an effort to focus on business and technology news instead of trying to be a generalist publication. The change, effective Tuesday, is happening less than three years after the publication had shortened its name to Insider.

The rebranded Business Insider will also put more emphasis on serving and attracting subscribers than generating traffic through social-media platforms, said Barbara Peng, who will succeed Blodget as CEO. Peng was previously president of Insider, which beyond its namesake publication also houses research group Insider Intelligence.

“Our way forward is really to make sure our audience is coming to us first,” Peng said.

Blodget said Business Insider and other publishers expanded audiences over the years by leveraging their reach on social media, but the share of traffic they got from platforms such as X and Facebook isn’t what it used to be. Getting readers to come directly to its platform is “the way to survive and continue to delight your audience,” he said in an interview.

Blodget, 57, said he had prepared for the CEO transition for more than two years. He said he would serve as board chair of Insider, advise Axel Springer on its U.S. development, and go back to doing journalism.

He and former DoubleClick CEO Kevin Ryan co-founded the digital-media outlet in 2007, after Ryan suggested launching a “TechCrunch for New York.” The publication was first named Silicon Alley Insider, after an area in Manhattan with a large concentration of tech startups. The duo quickly ditched the New York focus after witnessing a traffic surge for stories about Apple, Blodget recalled, and the name was eventually changed to Business Insider.

“Our mission for the first year was to build an audience that I knew would enable us to raise enough capital to buy another year,” he said.

When Facebook and Twitter, as X was formerly known, started gaining steam, Business Insider grew rapidly by producing content and headlines that generated traction on social media. In 2015, it was acquired by Axel Springer as the publisher looked to expand in the U.S. Axel Springer has since acquired more publications, including Politico and Morning Brew.

In 2017, Business Insider launched a subscription offering largely for its exclusive business reporting, while leaving the majority of its content free. Last year, it won its first Pulitzer Prize for “How I Escaped a Chinese Internment Camp,” an illustrated report about China’s treatment of Uyghurs.

In 2021, the publisher rebranded as Insider, a move that marked its ambitions to reach a wider swath of the population. Today, it employs around 800 people, after moving to cut staff by about 10% earlier this year.

Under Peng, the publication is doubling down on its business-journalism roots.

Research conducted earlier this year showed people were still referring to the publication as Business Insider, despite the name change, said Peng, who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studied neuroscience.

“That brand is very strong,” she said. “It’s enduring.”

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