Power 100 Q&A: Henry Blodget
Named 99th most powerful person in finance on the Worth 2015 Power 100
Q: HOW’S BUSINESS INSIDER DOING?
A: We are the most-read business publication in any media, not just digital. We get about 80 million global unique hits a month. We do about 50 million video views a month. We have seven international editions, and we’re about to launch in Germany as well. It really is a native digital organization.
AND BEING NATIVE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE?
Our theory was, this is a new medium—it will evolve its own model. If you go back to the beginning of television, it tried to take the existing format and cram it into the new medium. The first TV news broadcasts were basically a guy standing, reading a newspaper. And then people realized, “Hey, pictures tell a thousand words.”
SO YOU THREW OUT THE OLD ASSUMPTIONS FROM THE PRINT DAYS?
When we started in 2007, we didn’t say, “We’re going to make this into a newspaper.” We tried many, many, many different things. We had plenty of boneheaded ideas along the way. But we watched what worked and we did more of that.
WHO READS BUSINESS INSIDER?
The target reader is the new generation of professionals. Digital natives—on smartphones 18 hours a day, they want to stay up to date. They would love to read 4,000-word articles, but often don’t have the time.
BUT MUCH OF THE WRITING AND REPORTING ON BI IS SORT OF DOWN AND DIRTY, AND WOULDN’T PASS THE TEST OF TIME.
We do have a huge advantage in not having to put out a world-class newspaper every morning, which is staggeringly difficult to do. So when I look at some of the traditional publications, I have full sympathy. If we also had to create a great 24-hour news channel or put out a great newspaper every morning, we’d be toast.
IN 2003 THE SEC BARRED YOU FROM THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY AND FINED YOU $4 MILLION FOR MISLEADING INVESTORS WHILE YOU WERE AN ANALYST AT MERRILL LYNCH. NOT LONG AGO, THOUGH, YOU SAID WERE INTERESTED IN BEING REINSTATED TO WORK IN SECURITIES. WHY?
I got what amounts to a dishonorable discharge from the securities industry, which I’m embarrassed about and I don’t look back on proudly at all. At some point, if it is appropriate, it would be great to have that reversed, but not with the intention of going to work on Wall Street. I love what I am doing.
JUST TO CLEAR THE RECORD, THEN?
Exactly. But it turns out it’s a big process with a lot of lawyers involved, and I don’t know that it’s going to make sense.
WHOM DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN FINANCE?
[Vanguard founder] Jack Bogle. It is extraordinary how much value he has created. There’s just no question that indexing is the correct answer for the vast, vast majority of individual investors. The amount he has saved them and improved their returns is shocking.