You might think Henry Blodget would be thrilled that an exhaustive profile in this week’s New Yorker touts his Business Insider for building an audience of 24 million unique visitors a month with its tabloid spin on the day’s business news.
It turns out he hasn’t read it, he tells TheWrap.
“I’m a huge Ken Auletta fan, but this is one article of his that I won’t be reading (old survival habit from the dotcom days),” the CEO and editor-in-chief of Business Insider told TheWrap. “He is a class act and one of the best in the business, though, so it is an honor to have been written about by him.”
Auletta’s piece, which clocks in at 5,260 words, is the kind of attention usually lavished on captains of industry like Ted Turner or Rupert Murdoch. It notes that while Blodget has grown Business Insider’s traffic and influence since he signed on in 2007, a lot of people aren’t ready to forgive and forget.
Blodget, who headed the global internet research team at Merrill Lynch, was accused of bolstering the stocks of certain digital companies that he privately expressed doubts about. Charged with civil securities fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2003, he became exhibit A for “dotcom era” greed.
There’s certainly a lot in the piece that makes Blodget come off as a savvy digital publisher, albeit one whose profits have yet to balloon as quickly as his audience. On the plus side, there’s that readership of 24 million worldwide based on Google analytics and a domestic audience of 9 million uniques a month based on Comscore.
A cursory glance of the homepage with such four-alarm headlines as “Your Smartphone Is Tracking You In Ways You’ve Never Imagined,” gives a sense of the hysteric approach that’s served the site so well.
Revenue is also increasing, jumping from $5 million in 2010 to $11 million in 2012. Profits have yet to follow that lead; Business Insider lost $3 million in 2012.
Blodget told TheWrap that revenue will be “much higher” in 2013. He noted that in the first quarter it grew more than 100 percent from the same period the previous year.
“We were profitable in the first quarter,” Blodget said. “We’ll keep re-evaluating the investment rate for the rest of the year based on what’s best for the business long-term.”
But not everything in the profile will make him blush in a good way.
In one particularly barbed assessment, Steve Shepard, the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, tells Auletta that he doesn’t trust Blodget and refuses to read the site because of the editor’s past.
“Blodget wasn’t the only villain, or even the primary cause of the boom and bust, but he typified the worst of the excesses on Wall Street,” Shepard tells Auletta. “Blodget was dishonest and deeply cynical. Journalists should be the opposite. It hurts me to see him ply our trade.”
Blodget said he doesn’t blame people for having doubts about him, but that he’s grateful that not everyone has written him off.
“Given the SEC allegations of ten years ago, I would be surprised if people had NOT wondered whether they should trust me. (I certainly would have wondered that),” Blodget told TheWrap. “Fortunately, over the past decade, millions of people have given me the opportunity to earn their trust. I will always be grateful for that.”
Blodget would no doubt be happy to read that Auletta spends more time on his second act than he does dissecting his first.