Business Insider did more than a billion Facebook video views last month, according to the company, which puts it in the upper tier of Facebook video publishers. It’s exponential growth for the publisher, which only started uploading videos directly to Facebook last August.
Business Insider, like many digital publishers, is pouring resources into video. It has built a 39-person video team, which doesn’t include the six-person BI Films division that’s focused on original long-form content, now cranking out more than 600 videos to Facebook. The output is helped by the fact that a big chunk of the video content Business Insider publishes isn’t original video it shot. The company said less than a quarter of videos published across its 11 different Business Insider Facebook pages is based off of repackaged third-party content. Its Tech Insider page features slightly more third-party content, while more than half the videos created by its Insider distributed content team feature third-party content.
Business Insider is no stranger to aggregation. The site had an early reputation — and still does in many quarters — for repurposing others original content with a new spin. According to Business Insider president and COO Julie Hansen, Business Insider licenses or gets permission for the “vast majority” of the third-party content it uses. “The amount of video you can use under ‘fair use’ is fairly limited,” she said. “We respect copyright laws.”
For now, it’s not an issue for Business Insider and the content owners it grabs footage from because Suggested Videos — the only way for Facebook video publishers to make money from ads on the platform — isn’t bringing in enough revenue. At some point, that will change. “That will change the terms of the agreements they make with the content owners,” said Jason Kirk, chief business officer at Zefr. “Facebook has largely been a promotional platform for content owners, but once money is involved, they will rethink their strategies.”
As with other top Facebook video publishers, Business Insider’s growth can be partially attributed to adopting the short-form, captioned format that works well within Facebook news feeds — and doing that in massive quantities. For instance, the company’s most popular video of 2016 is a short Business Insider-shot clip about a bagel shop in Brooklyn that makes rainbow-colored bagels. The video opens with a striking shot of a rainbow-colored dough and then goes through the process of how the popular bagel is made. All of the information is available in text, and all dialogue is closed-captioned. It has done more than 65.7 million autoplayed views on Facebook since Feb. 2. The same clip on Insider’s YouTube account has garnered 840,000 views.
“That has been a big learning for us: You have to grab people’s attention immediately, which is exactly like how we approach headlines on Business Insider,” said Julie Hansen, president of Business Insider. “It’s the same principle.”
Business Insider pushes video out to 18 different Facebook pages. Of the 18 pages, 12 tracked by Tubular Labs collected 738.5 million views in March. Popular video genres include food — the Insider Food page has grown to 1 million fans since launching in January — as well as how-to and explainer videos. The company also does straight news (most of which is licensed from AP and Reuters), short videos on personalities and brands and interviews with public figures like Hillary Clinton.
“We try to customize the content for the audience,” said Hansen. “There is no quota system; it’s all about the right content finding the right audience.”