Business Insider goes native

All but erasing the line between editorial and marketing

Here’s a Business Insider vertical called the “Future of Business.” Let’s hope it’s not the future of news.

The problems start with the banner across the top of the page:

If “Within every industry, transformational change is coming. Embrace it” reads like vacuous ad copy, well, the BI section is sponsored by SAP, and the actual blog posts aren’t much better.

Take the top story in Future of Business right now, headlined, “Hacking Happiness: How Big Data Can Make The World More Joyful.” Now, there’s a lot of dumb shit on Business Insider, but we don’t normally get suspicious about why it’s dumb, since its business model is essentially churning out mass quantities of clickbait.

But this post looks less like hamster wheel sensationalism than it does corporate propaganda:

At first glance it appears to be poorly produced native content by SAP, which happens to sell Big Data services. But it’s a BI staff-produced blog post, all right—one that’s even more gushing than this Big Data native ad at posted by “Saswato Das, Head of Thought Leadership Content, SAP.” BI:

Sure, big data technology can read every tweet ever tweeted. It can search and organize boundless volumes of books. It can even help keep track of sports statistics that were previously unrecordable.

But now it can make the world a happier place.

No need to worry about the dehumanizing impact of giant, unregulated corporations mining your personal data to better manipulate you, it’s all Zip-A-Dee-Frickin’-Doo-Dah in Big Data Land. This new breakthrough in Big Data that “can make the world a happier place,” according to Business Insider? Some social media guy’s app, “which is currently in development.”

The post just below “Hacking Happiness” is a BI-produced slideshow called “Everything You Need To Know About The New Internet—The ‘Internet Of Things.’” SAP will sell you on an Internet of Things solution, too, if you’re in the market. BI stuffs the “to be sure,” such that it is, in the very last slide:

Issues such as privacy, reliability, and control of data still have to be worked out.

But even so, there’s no stopping the Internet of Things now.

Nor, apparently, native ads and sponsored content.

Here are some more Future of Business headlines:

— How Big Data Technology Is Making Your Favorite Sport Even Better

— From X-Ray Glasses To Smart Pills, Here’s How Technology Can Keep You Healthy

— Consumers Have Never, Ever Had It This Good

— 7 Cities Using Smart Technology In Unusual Ways

And no, I’m not cherry-picking. Those are in chronological order.

Sandwiched in there is a native ad by SAP headlined “Some Businesses Totally Miss The Future Of Sustainability.”

And this is where the lines really blur. The post is a Q&A with SAP’s chief sustainability officer conducted by a Business Insider staffer with questions ranging from “What does sustainability mean to you?” to “What steps has SAP taken to become more sustainable itself?” The best thing to say about it is that it’s so boring that few will read it.

Business Insider is also looking to expand along these lines and explains what it’s looking for in this want ad:

At Business Insider, we produce sponsor posts and dedicated emails that we edit or create in our own voice and style. We also write and produce original content that aligns with the advertiser’s marketing goals and themes.

We’re looking to hire a strong, versatile writer/editor with web experience who can tackle all sorts of subjects and has a talent for making any kind of writing fun and accessible. This person will collaborate on creative ideas and work with clients, freelancers, and staff to create great content that resonates with the Business Insider readership and beyond.

And so the news agenda is shaped ever more directly by corporate sponsors and Business Insider jeopardizes whatever credibility it had. It may seem old-fashioned, but the old Chinese wall, porous as it may have been at times, was there for a good reason.

“Within every industry, transformational change is coming. Embrace it,” Business Insider urges.

No thanks. Not here.

(home page photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for TechCrunch/AOL)

Further reading:

Business Insider and Financial Press Sensationalism. Henry Blodget & Co. stroke the id of the Internet

Business Insider’s Barcelona Junket

Business Insider and Over-Aggregation

Sourcing Trayvon Martin “Photos” From Stormfront. Not a good idea, Business Insider

Blodget Asks a Taboo Question on Wages and Profits

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,