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Another one bites the dust – Business Insider SA news website to close

Another one bites the dust – Business Insider SA news website to close
(Photo: Facebook / Business Insider South Africa)

So long, and thanks for all the fish. Or in the case of Business Insider South Africa, for all the dishing. The popular multinational financial and business news website is shutting down its operations in SA at the end of the month because its parent company failed to renew its licensing agreement.

Acting editor Phillip de Wet has announced the South African site would close for good on 28 February, with a new “vertical” on the News24 site to launch the following day.

“We will flip the switch with a tinge of sadness, but less than you may imagine. While this publication will shut down, what we offered – fast, fun, and fearless coverage of business [and not-quite-business] topics – will continue elsewhere, uninterrupted.”

Launched five years ago this month as a partnership between Business Insider, a German-owned American-headquartered outlet, and News24, part of the Media24 group, Business Insider SA evolved into a publication featuring news and lifestyle content alongside business content. 

In 2015, an 88% stake in the head office was acquired by the European multinational publisher Axel Springer SE for $343-million. It had already owned a portion of Business Insider from previous funding rounds. 

The brand was renamed Insider in February 2021.

After the purchase, a substantial portion of staff left the company. CNN reported that some staff who exited complained that “traffic took precedence over enterprise reporting”. Morale inside Business Insider’s newsroom in Manhattan plunged, spurring an exodus of editorial staff.

In 2018, staff members were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement that included a non-disparagement clause requiring them not to criticise the site during or after their employment.

Insiders model has relied on publishing original stories with clickbaity headlines and aggregated material from other outlets. It has also been criticised for publishing native advertising, which resembles the publication’s editorial content but is paid for by an advertiser, and even granted sponsors editorial control of its content. 

Native advertising is said to help drive traffic, engagement and conversions on the internet. Usually, it features as “recommended”, “suggested by” or “sponsored” posts on websites.

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Because native advertising is so easily mistaken for a site’s content, it blurs the line between advertising and editorial, making it difficult for users to discern the advertising.

Users deem the ads as deceptive, underhanded and potentially unethical, while some brands claim they boost awareness.

Now the parent company, Insider, has decided not to renew Business Insider SA’s licensing agreement.

News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson said he was extremely proud of what Business Insider SA had achieved in five years.

“BI, as we called it, came from nowhere and quickly turned the business media market on its head. With an approach that is much more consumer focused, BI soon became the largest business website in South Africa. In its five years of existence, BI was always in the top three ranking of business websites, alongside its sister publication, News24 Business.”

When asked why the SA publication had been shut, Basson told Business Maverick that Insider in the US had simply switched its licensing strategy to focus on the mother site project, Insider.com

“They want all international English traffic to come to the [Insider] site. That is our understanding of their strategy change, which we accept and it makes sense for the stage where we are in terms of the media industry.”

Business Insider SA’s staff would be transferred to News24, barring one who chose to take a package.

Next month, News24 will be launching a new section focused on technology and trends to replace the Business Insider offering. BM/DM 

Update: This story has been updated. In the earlier version, there was a suggestion that De Wet had declined to comment on the use of native advertising on the site. This is incorrect. We apologise for the confusion. 

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