Oddly Enough, I Don't Hate Business Insider Because Of Its Brilliance
To head off any allegations of inter-blog rivalry, let me start off by saying that Sarah loves Business Insider. Clicks for hours, she does. Adores every preposterous headline and asinine slideshow. She explains as much in this episode of "Why Isn't This News."
I, as any of my Twitter followers will testify, do not care for Business Insider. I hate those headlines and slideshows for the same reason as Sarah loves them. I hate them because they're brain-dead entertainment and linkbait masquerading -- to readers, and advertisers -- as news and insight.
More than that, I despise the amorality of the whole enterprise. While everyone in their right mind cries foul over headlines like "Why Do People Hate Jews?" and "HEY, LIBERALS: Turns Out Sandra 'Slut' Fluke Isn't A Friend Of Free Speech", Business Insider staffers simply throw up a collective shrug. We're just 'sayin, they bleat, before falling back on the last fetid mattress of a tabloid scoundrel: "People are interested in this stuff. If they weren't, we wouldn't have so many readers."
Ah yes, the "public interest" test, as applied by a disingenuous dick. If the public is interested in it, it must be in the Public Interest.
Recently though, in the face of almost daily outrage and scorn from their peers, Business Insider staffers have mounted a new defense. The reason why so many people mock them for headlines like "We Just Found Out That Millipedes Don't Have 1,000 Legs" or wonder out loud anyone who calls himself a journalist can possibly spend his days copy-pasting shit like "Let Me Tell You About The Time I Gave A Lap Dance To A Soldier On His Way To Iraq" has nothing to do with a legitimate concern over an entire publication which talks to its readers as if they were lobotomized children.
The hatred is because Business Insider is so brilliant, so tapped in to the future of journalism, that everyone else in the media is absolutely terrified, not to mention bitterly jealous, of them. We Business Outsiders are not critics, but rather -- to aggregate a phrase from the kids -- we are "haters." And, as such, we're gonna hate.
The view is articulated best in this post from departing "senior research analyst for Business Insider Intelligence" Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry. In it, Gobry takes the haters (including me) to task, writing...
"The hatred shows that BI is on to something and on its way to transforming the news business and becoming a marquee brand (if it doesn’t sell before that).
It’s also a great startup lesson. If you’re an innovative startup, particularly a disruptive one, people won’t just fight you, or denigrate you. They will HATE you, with real hatred. Facebook went through this. Twitter went through this. Embrace the hatred. The hatred is good. Let it wash over you, and then kick ass." It's certainly true that human jealousy can very quickly manifest itself as hate. The reason we detest reality TV stars, when we could simply choose not to watch them, is often because – deep down – we perceive an injustice that they are famous while we are not. Likewise, it's a verifiable fact that Business Insider recently raised $7m and that, thanks to its mastery of slideshows and linkbait, the company is certainly sucking in ad revenue like a Dyson.
It's no coincidence that the notion of “haters” is so frequently promoted by the most irritating, obnoxious and, yes, hateful people who walk God's earth -- people for whom it's far easier to believe that the entire world is against them because of the green eyed monster of envy rather than because, heaven forfend, the critics might actually have a point.
Sometimes critics criticize for a reason. And sometimes journalists dislike certain news organizations because those organizations represent everything that's wrong with the Internetization of the industry. There is simply no universe in which a headline like "Introducing The World's Hottest Billionaire Offspring" leads to a more informed or educated readership. Meanwhile, the naked commercial motive behind inviting us to "Guess Which TV Ads These Models Are In From Their Real-Life Headshots" is anathema to an industry that once prided itself on the separation of editorial and advertising.
There is always room on the Internet for more entertainment, for another mindless distraction, and if Business Insider presented itself as such there would be no problem. But it doesn't. Business Insider presents itself – from its name downwards – as a source of insider information, of news, of analysis, of legitimate journalism. It has oxymoronic sections like 'Business Insider Intelligence' to further imply legitimacy. It hosts conferences.
And it isn't satisfied with only poisoning its own well. No, if Gobry's post is representative of the views of his colleagues, Business Insider considers itself to be the future of all journalism. Why else are the rest of us so mad? Clearly we're just jealous that Business Insider is 'disrupting' our industry and we haven't figured out how to copy it yet. (Because of course a Business Insider contributor would assume that everyone else sits around trying to figure out how to best duplicate someone else's hard work.)
I could go on. I could explain why those of us who give a damn about journalistic standards, or intelligent headlines or -- I dunno -- words of more than one syllable are so frustrated every time an obvious Business Insider headline pollutes our Twitter stream. But at an organization that sees every critic as a jealous hater, any kind of nuanced argument will inevitably fall on cloth ears.
Instead, let me try to put this in language a Business Insider staffer might understand.
HEY BUSINESS INSIDER: You won't believe the one thing this 32 year old PandoDaily contributor just decided you MUST know...
Sometimes if people hate you, it's not because they're scared, or jealous. It's because what you do is fucking awful.