Insider co-founder Henry Blodget steps down as CEO

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By Dan Sears

Insider said it has changed its name back to Business Insider and that Henry Blodget is stepping down as chief executive of the publication he co-founded more than 15 years ago.

Insider, a unit of German publishing giant Axel Springer, will switch back to its old name effective Tuesday in a strategic shift back toward focusing on business and technology from general news.

The rebrand, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, will also put more of an emphasis on bringing in subscribers rather than generating traffic via social media platforms, according to Barbara Peng, who will succeed Blodget as CEO.

Previously, Peng served as president of Insider, which includes the news site, as well as the research group Insider Intelligence.

“A future as Business Insider reaffirms our center of gravity around business, tech, and innovation,” Peng said in a memo to employees Tuesday. “We are embracing our roots and focusing on what we’ve done best.”

Blodget, 57, said he had prepared for the CEO transition for more than two years, adding that he will serve as board chair of Insider, advise Axel Springer on its US development, and “go back to doing journalism.”

Insider co-founder Henry Blodget is stepping down as CEO amid a strategic shift back to business and tech news.

The change comes after an ugly and embarrassing spat with the unionized staffers this summer after the company slashed 10% of its workforce or roughly 100 jobs earlier this year amid slumping traffic and questions about the website’s strategy.

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Unionized reporters and editors went on strike for nearly two weeks over improvements to their compensation, leaving a skeleton crew of managers–including Blodget and editor-in-chief Nich Carlson–to pump out viral content to keep the site afloat.

Employees griped about the long hours as management commiserated with Carlson writing to staffers, “I know you’re tired. I’m tired too.”

Meanwhile, The Post obtained a video of Carlson riding his bike in his Brooklyn neighborhood ripping down posters from the union, which called him and Blodget out for their bloated salaries.

Unionized employees papered the Brooklyn neighborhoods where Blodget and Carlson lived, calling them out over the layoffs and the need for a fair contract as the website’s traffic slipped.

“Have you seen this millionaire?,” read the fliers, which included the photos of Blodget and Carlson, as well as information on the union’s push for a “fair contract” with company management.

Union members approached Carlson, who awkwardly rode off after being questioned about the layoffs and why management wasn’t coming to the bargaining table.

Roughly 24 hours after the video was published, management scrambled to come to a deal, ending the 13-day labor strike.

Founded in 2007 by Blodget and former DoubleClick CEO Kevin Ryan, the publication was first named Silicon Alley Insider, after an area in Manhattan with a large concentration of tech startups.

The duo dropped the idea of a tech publication centered on New York firms when it saw a traffic surge for stories about Apple, Blodget said. Eventually, the company’s name, too, was changed to Business Insider.

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“Our mission for the first year was to build an audience that I knew would enable us to raise enough capital to buy another year,” he noted.

When Facebook and Twitter, as X was formerly known, started ramping up, Business Insider also grew rapidly by producing content and clickable headlines that grabbed attention on social media.

In 2015, Business Insider was acquired by Axel Springer, a German publisher looking to expand in the US. Today Axel Springer owns Politico and Morning Brew, among other brands.

In a move to ramp up revenue, Business Insider launched a subscription offering in 2017 largely for its exclusive business reporting, while leaving much of its content free.

As it moved to expand its content into areas from entertainment, retail, and media news, the publisher rebranded the outlet in 2021 as Insider.

Last year, the company won its first Pulitzer Prize for “How I Escaped a Chinese Internment Camp,” an illustrated report about China’s treatment of Uyghurs.

Barbara Peng will grab the reins of CEO, after serving as Insider’s president since 2017.
Business Insider Intelligence group

Blodget said Business Insider and other publishers expanded audiences over the years through their robust audiences on social media platforms, but the traffic they generated from platforms like X and Facebook isn’t growing as quickly.

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He told The Journal that getting readers to come directly to its platform is “the way to survive and continue to delight your audience.”

Under Peng, the publication, which employs 800 people, is returning to its business-journalism roots, as most readers still think of it as primarily a business news outlet. She began her Insider career in 2015 as vice president of research and quickly moved up the ranks to eventually become president of research and the news division in 2021.

According to Peng, research conducted earlier this year showed people were still referring to the publication as Business Insider, despite the name change.

“That brand is very strong,” she told The Journal. “It’s enduring.”

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