Advertently or not, The New Yorker this week presents a sort of Goofus-and-Gallant account of the kinds of media organizations to emerge in the digital age: Henry Blodget's news aggregator Business Insider and hipster clothing store-turned-magazine-turned-advertising empire Vice. As very different media organizations with very different ambitions and agendas, it's difficult to draw direct comparisons between what Business Insider and Vice set out to do, but it is apparent what kind of future of journalism The New Yorker is rooting for, even if the two pieces show they're not clear on how to pay for it.
In the profile of Blodget, Ken Auletta is so dismissive of Business Insider as a scary manufacturer of parasitic slideshows, one wonders why he followed through on the assignment in the first place. "Lengthy investigative pieces," like the one Auletta wrote on Blodget, "are rare on all-digital platforms. They are expensive to produce, and given a readership that has an average of four minutes to spare, not likely to attract a largue audience." Kevin Ryan, an early investor in Business Insider* gives him a quote that makes journalists cringe: "Scoops are irrelevant. They take two days to report. They're not worth it. If someone has a scoop we post it four minutes later." The business of Business Insider is not described as very impressive either. Ryan tells Auletta that BI lost $3 million in 2012 and journalism is "a bad business so far," adding, "We'll do $11 million in revenues this year. That's tiny. Ad rates are low. It's tough to monetize."