With its news brand, Business Insider takes a page from BuzzFeed

Business Insider’s forthcoming general news site, Insider, is still not slated to launch until early 2016, but the brand is already making itself known by distributing itself on social channels.

The publisher has assembled a small team under Insider’s newly appointed editor in chief Nicholas Carlson, who was BI’s chief correspondent. They’ve been publishing full articles and short videos straight to Twitter and Facebook and Twitter:

And this one:

HILLARY’S SUPPORT IN A CRUCIAL STATE IS SUDDENLY CRUMBLINGDemocratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is…

Posted by INSIDER on Monday, August 31, 2015

As the channel’s nascent Facebook page reads: “It’s delivered to you where you already are, when you want it, in ways that take full advantage of the digital medium.” There’s also a Tumblr and Instagram presence.

“We are very deliberately launching on social first,” BI president and COO Julie Hansen said. “It’s all about the idea that that’s where the readers are and are accustomed to looking for content.”

With its distributed approach, Business Insider is following in the footsteps of BuzzFeed, which has become the poster child of publishing content directly on social platforms. Others publishers including Fusion, Vox and Quartz have also done so to varying degrees.

It’s easy to see why publishers are taking this approach, with a considerable increase in people starting their news-reading journey from their social media feeds. In BI’s case, 67 percent of its social referrals come from Facebook, followed by reddit at 21 percent and Twitter, 8 percent, according to SimilarWeb. So with Insider, with an as-yet established brand, this strategy could be a way to gain recognition for it in advance of the launch.

The risk in the distributed approach, of course, is that publishers so far have no real way to directly monetize that audience. Insider’s Facebook feed has been linking to some BI articles, which theoretically could translate into some traffic that BI could then monetize through ads on its site.

But Insider’s videos on Twitter don’t click back to Business Insider, so the publisher isn’t getting any traffic benefit. And in BI’s case, it’s a question of whether exposing people to the brand now will train them to click through to the site once it eventually launches. Distributing socially without an existing site could hamper BI’s ability to carve out a brand in readers’ minds in an already cramped news space.

To that end, BI sees the social distribution as a way to hone its voice and figure out who its audience is, Hansen said. “It’s definitely about awareness right now and getting to monetization later,” she said. “We want to see the audience build first. Once we know who’s reading the site, we’ll be able to show it to advertisers.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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