While the Internet provides unique opportunities to grow an international brand – without the same hurdles facing cross-border business of the past – the strategy of one of the most recognisable online brands in the world is built on developing local partnerships rather than go it alone.
This is the word from Julie Hansen, president of US-based Business Insider (BI), who will be part of a panel discussion on the internationalisation of media brands at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto, Canada from 13-15 October.
1. Please tell the FIPP audience a little about yourself?
I’ve been at Business Insider for seven years and have been working in the digital space for about twenty, ever since I registered my first domain name in 1995. Prior to BI, I worked at several leading media companies including Time Inc., Conde Nast and CBS.
2. Business Insider enjoyed phenomenal growth in the past year with 100 per cent audience growth and 90 per cent revenue growth.
a. What are the top 3-5 factors that drove audience growth?
Our strategy has been built on a simple but powerful premise: to fully embrace digital in order to meet our users where they are. We believe it’s possible to scale an audience today by creating a new kind of storytelling that reflects this powerful new medium. Just like TV moved away from already established forms of content (think radio), we’re at a unique moment when we can create a new kind of journalism that mirrors how and why users today consume content that is different than what’s come before. And our approach has been especially effective reaching our target audience: the next generation of business leaders. Lastly, beyond being digital native and eager to try new things, we’ve focused our efforts on providing a content mix that connects with an audience that is smart, engaged, curious – and mobile.
b. What are the top 3-5 factors that drove revenue growth?
We believe digital advertising should be as innovative as digital media, so we embrace new, digital native formats like content marketing and programmatic ad-buying. It helps to be able to offer a desirable – as well as large and growing – audience.
c. Is BI profitable?
BI has been profitable at times in its history, but that has not been our focus. Instead, we have sought to grow the company and build our brand – both in the US and abroad. We are confident that our current expansion – and our increasingly large market share – will power our future business.
3. I’m curious about your strategies for growth. What are your key areas for investment from an organic growth perspective and how do you fund this growth?
We were fortunate to receive a major round of funding earlier this year and have been putting it to use by rapidly expanding into new territories, new verticals, and new publishing formats. We launched in the UK last November; in fact, it’s already the #1 business site there. This summer we are launching a site focused on technology and innovation, for which we’ve hired nearly three dozen staffers. In addition, we are tripling the size of our international team to handle licenses we’re signing in Germany, France, Poland, and the Nordics. We’re also experimenting with long-form video content, podcasting, new social distribution and more. Digital never stands still.
4. You will be part of our international panel at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto from 13-15 October. Magazine media have a legacy of cross-border licensing, syndication and partnership deals, but the game is changing in a borderless online world, where you can build a global brand without the need for local partners. It is therefore interesting to see the likes of Business Insider doing local media partnership deals as part of its internationalisation.
a. Why partnerships and not simply go it alone?
Digital provides unique opportunities to grow an international brand quickly and we’re eager to capitalise on that. For instance, we don’t have the same logistical hurdles that print media faces. As our site is already read by many English-speaking readers in a lot of the markets we are targeting for licenses, our licensees have a running start in further developing the BI brand in their markets. And, of course, we plan to grow revenue through our partners’ local sales capabilities.
b. How many such partnership deals do you have in place, and where?
Currently we have one O&O [owned and operated] site (London) and six licensed sites in Australia, India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. We have plans to launch four new partnerships within the next 6 months.
c. How does these partnerships work in practice?
For the most part they are traditional licenses. In addition to the BI brand, we provide content, design, and in some cases, CMS (content management system). We also share expertise and a global newsroom where we exchange ideas and content among all partners. The partner provides additional local content and publishes and monetises the site (via a rev share model). They also provide local SEO/SEM and marketing support to grow audience and advertiser awareness.
d. Are you looking to do more such deals?
e. What are the key characteristics/requirements you look for in partners?
Deep understanding of the Business Insider brand, commitment to digital publishing, experience in business and/or news content, and a strong position within a local market. In some territories this has meant working with a digital startup and in others with a “legacy” partner.
5. Overall, what do you see as the key trends driving online media brands in the next 12-18 months?
Continued growth in mobile and rapid innovation in distribution (social/messaging) platforms.
6. You have had a distinguished career including launching websites at Condé Nast and Time Inc., as well as CBS. What is your view of the online efforts of magazine media brands today and are there any examples you particularly enjoy?
Appreciate the kind words. Two worth watching are The Atlantic, for its launch of Quartz, which has done a great job repeatedly innovating and iterating, and ESPN.com, which while more of a TV brand than a magazine still shows how a big media company can be both nimble and smart online. For instance, its new video-intensive redesign looks amazing.
7. Away from professional life, what are three things professional colleagues do not readily know about you?
When I’m not with my kids, I like nothing more than to sneak in a round of golf, which is no surprise to my colleagues.
Join Julie, more than 60 other international speakers and some 700-800 executives who will be at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto, from 13-15 October 2015.
• Register here to book your place
• See the provisional programme here
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