This year marks a decade since Business Insider opened its London bureau aiming to fill what it somewhat cheekily claimed at the time was a “void in the marketplace” for business leaders in the UK.
Then, Business Insider UK had a team of seven. Now, there is a team of around 70 journalists in the UK, and more than 500 globally.
UK bureau chief and business executive editor Spriha Srivastava and Shona Ghosh, deputy executive editor of business, told Press Gazette the brand has matured and “thoughtfully evolved” its coverage since 2014.
Ghosh said: “It does feel like we’re in a more mature place from when the London bureau first started in 2014… a few years ago, we couldn’t have talked about ourselves on a par with sometimes the FT or Bloomberg or Sky in the same way and now I think that we can.”
In September, its six-person venture capital and startups team, part of Business Insider’s broader UK business team, received recognition as the best specialist/B2B journalism website in Press Gazette’s Future of Media Awards.
The judges said it had “carved out an impressive niche providing readers with deeply-researched news they can use which they can’t find anywhere else. As a result, it has already found a healthy base of subscribers and looks to be on a secure financial footing.”
Tech has been a “core plank” of Business Insider’s coverage since its start as Silicon Alley Insider in 2007 and Ghosh, who has helped to oversee the VC and startups team alongside senior editor Michael Cogley, said that when it launched in the UK there “wasn’t really a lot around interrogating startups and venture capital and tech… in a critical way.
“For a long time tech coverage was actually quite puffy and certainly the [Business Insider] reporters at that time were keen to serve an audience who were interested in tech but also interrogate when things can go wrong.”
Tech always a priority at Business Insider in US and UK
One of Business Insider UK’s first hires in 2014 was a tech editor, and Ghosh said the bureau has “always somewhat focused on startups and venture capital partly because… most of the major technology firms are of course in the US so we thought about what we could really attack from the London bureau”.
Ghosh said the landscape has got busier in the past decade, citing competitors including FT-backed site for the European startup scene Sifted which launched in 2019, The Information in the US, and Tech Crunch, owned by Yahoo.
There is still less focus on the UK and European startup scene compared to the US, however, and Ghosh said none of Business Insider’s competitors on this side of the Atlantic “precisely do what we do” in the VC and startup scene especially.
That includes a combination of “service journalism” – for example publishing redacted pitch decks to demystify the fundraising process – as well as “chasing perhaps juicier stories around bigger companies” although that area is more competitive.
Despite specifically citing Sky News City editor Mark Kleinman as being “often frustratingly just ahead of us on scoops”, Ghosh highlighted several of Business Insider’s recent AI funding scoops about the likes of Eleven Labs, Aleph Alpha, DeepL, Synthesia, and Mistral.
Ghosh said: “A lot of the journalists on the team have been doing this for a long time. They’re very trusted and known in the industry and have very strong sources. So we try and also be first when we can to those stories.”
The team has also done an increasing amount of ambitious reporting, with Ghosh citing a long-read investigation into Austrian education tech platform Go Student, which was highly valued but chaotic behind the scenes. “Readers were super-interested in that kind of in-depth reporting,” Ghosh said. “It’s definitely given us courage to try more of that and do that more frequently.”
Bureau chief Srivastava added that an important part of what Business Insider does more generally is leaning into analysis and “breaking down those big news events in a way that when readers come to us, it’s not just this has happened – it’s more about this has happened and this is what it means”.
“We believe that when a news event happens, we are competing with a lot of people,” Srivastava said, adding that this is where they can differentiate themselves “if you’re able to lean into breaking down that actual news event for the readers and you’re providing them with that extra level of information”.
Business Insider also has a “chattier tone and more conversational plain English tone” compared to some outlets, Ghosh added. “A sense of bringing you inside the room. Not such a sense of formality in the way that we cover the story. I think all of those qualities are unique to us.”
Across the whole of the Business Insider London bureau, coverage areas are wider than the name may suggest, including transportation, tech, retail, markets, general news, politics, lifestyle, digital culture, entertainment and health.
In November, a major rebranding exercise took place (again). Insider was launched as a sister lifestyle brand to Business Insider in 2016 but it ended up taking over as the overall company brand from February 2021.
Now, Insider has once again become Business Insider as the company decided to recommit “to what we do best: our powerful, insightful, and unique coverage of business, tech, and innovation” with “a name that reminds us all that Business Insider isn’t some generic news website built for everybody,” editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson said.
Srivastava described it as a “new beginning” and noted, “we also know that this Business Insider brand is very strong”.
“It reflects who we are and what our audience loves about us – our readers love our approach to these stories, these stories of business and tech innovation…”
Business Insider targets loyal audiences and subscribers
This is proved by awards like the VC and startups win as well as Business Insider’s growing subscriptions base – it has around 330,000 subscriptions across Business Insider and Insider Intelligence with a relatively hard paywall on its website.
Srivastava, who also oversees Business Insider’s team in Singapore as part of her remit as UK bureau chief, said the aim is for Business Insider readers and subscribers to make visiting the website a daily habit and retain its loyal audience.
She said Business Insider has to prioritise because it has fewer reporters than some other major news outlets – but she asks herself daily “how could we get better?”.
“That’s our motto as a company,” she explained. “We want to get better every day. So how do we get better? What do we do? What is the biggest story today? How can we follow up that story? And how can we lean more into new areas of coverage?
“And we also have a young newsroom so how can we mentor and coach and train reporters and invest more in them and invest in areas that are that are working?”
Business Insider thinks of itself as “one global newsroom”, she added, which means different newsrooms, and teams within them, can work together on major stories across timezones – for example, the OpenAI boardroom coup in November which began on a Friday night in the UK and lasted for several days.
On the following Monday morning, she said, “it was the Singapore team and the UK teams getting together to understand and break down the news for our readers and then connecting those dots to the US journalists. So when the US team is online, they know exactly where to pick it up from so it’s very much a collaborative work environment.
“We are on Slack, we have team meetings, we have handovers, so it feels very much like how a global newsroom is run.”
More ‘fully cross-newsroom collaborations’ to come in 2024
Going into 2024, Srivastava said her aim is to stay on top of bigger stories such as OpenAI and the wars in Ukraine/Russia and Gaza/Israel but dealing with them more creatively and with even more explanation and analysis.
“I think that is where we’re going to be shifting next year a bit more – tackling these stories more creatively so our readers feel very enlightened and educated at the end of the story and they come back for more,” she said.
“If you’re able to give them that in the story, then they’ll keep coming back for more and we’ll create that loyal audience. I think that is going to be a big priority for me personally going into 2024.”
Meanwhile, Ghosh said there will be more “fully cross-newsroom collaborations”: “Experimental collaborations where we have reporters in Asia, Europe and of course the US all teaming up to look at one particular issue at the same time and reporting back their findings.
“It takes time to build those relationships, processes, capabilities and trust in each other and that’s where we are and I think that will be extremely fun.”
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