Henry Blodget’s re-emergence (and at least partial redemption from his role in the previous era of Wall Street scandals) as co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Silicon Alley Insider, and specifically his second-day keynote, provided a reasonably compelling vision of where business models for online news are really headed. He began by describing the characteristics of the new model of online journalism: aggregation of many other, primary news sources; high velocity production (e.g. broadcast text to Blackberries); a conversational, interactive approach; “snackable” editorial packaging; and omni-media formats (e.g. Gawker.com runs 8 Tivos constantly to capture any video that may prove useful).
As examples of “who is doing well” he included his own enterprise (whose flagship is in the process of being re-branded as “Business Insider”), claimed to be the fastest growing business site on the Web, currently with 2 million monthly visitors; the Huffington Post, now bigger online than bostonpost.com with almost 5 million visitors monthly; and Gawker.com, driving twice the online traffic of the LA Times, using 80 editorial staff in comparison to 700. He also praised the Wall Street Journal’s hybrid subscription / free model (similar to the FT’s) and its diversification into ad-supported business news with the successful Marketwatch.com acquisition of a few years ago.
Blodget’s formula for saving the New York Times: cut costs 40% (no matter what, online revenues won’t cover the print cost structure, and print revenues are disappearing fast); raise the print price; charge online subscription fees; and, in so doing, buy time for the transition to online-only. Calling the journalism-is-dying meme “self-serving nonsense,” he noted that the Internet has created more journalists, and that “1 billion online readers = 1 billion fact checkers.” Predictions: more newspapers will be sold, folded, and bankrupted [a pretty safe call]; online journalism will become more professionalized; some “old media” journalists will adapt successfully [others clearly not]; “creative destruction” leads to a new and better future.
In response to an audience question from former WSJ publisher (and Blodget investor) Gordon Crovitz, Blodget noted that Business Insider was already starting to achieve the market-moving “scoops” that print brands have long dominated: “as people understand that we will treat them fairly, we are getting more and more contacts from people who want to talk.”