Why Business Insider Australia Should Be A Separate Brand

Business Insider is a light hearted, not to be taken seriously business news and content aggregator. It’s inhabited by an awful lot of clickbait headlines and slideshows like Hot Hedge Fund Wives, but amongst the social sharing trap content, there’s also a small amount of really valuable content.

I wrote a while back about how localisation of international websites is stupid – we visit the FT for UK news, the WSJ for US news, Business Insider for a US perspective on business news. Please, stop making me have to register for accounts or use a VPN in order to get the content I actually want.

Business Insider Australia sucks. I’m not even going to link to it. Business Insider (The Real One) just redesigned their site and it looks a lot better. Crikey is behind a paywall, the SMH and The Age are going behind a paywall for more than 10 articles a month that is not worth it and the partner sites in Australia are the sort of stuff that people want to read – rubbish.

In terms of economics, why do firms choose to provide localised content? I can think of the following reasons:

  • price discrimination amongst advertisers – US ads cost more, Asia ads cost less
  • clear delineation of target market related content – do US readers care about David Jones’ latest collection or Nathan Tinkler’s woes?
  • increasing the value of Business Insider by being able to tell investors “We now have a stand alone presence in Australia – a major Western media market”
  • analytics told them that the amount of traffic from Australia was high enough to justify the investment in localised content

Anyway, despite their reasoning, I think they’d have been better off creating a new brand for their Australian subsidiary. The first few months of a content aggregator are important – you set the tone – and I’m not impressed so far.

I’d consider myself a super-consumer of business news. I’m very impressed with what Reuters are doing with their redesign that focuses on streams of content as opposed to their current site.

I know that their product is controversial, but there’s definitely demand for that sort of content and like it or not, that seems to be where business news is headed. Quartz, a project of The Atlantic, sprinkles in sponsored content every couple of posts from a handful of sponsors.

The launch of Buzzfeed Business has probably provided some sense of urgency at Business Insider. They have their own content management system so probably have a hard time upgrading the site’s look, but they’ve done a reasonable job. It’s nothing compared to the “new” USA Today, but it’s a step in the right direction.

After exams are over I’m going to work through the Marginal Revolution course on media economics. I need to learn more about the economics of media, because when some sites are doing really well with their strategy, I consistently see things that I don’t understand the reasoning behind.

How Localisation Can Miss The Point

I’m a frequent visitor to BusinessInsider. They recently started an Australian edition, and now you get automatically redirected to that version. You can get into the US edition by clicking above the right of the navigation bar.

I don’t want to visit the Australian Edition of BusinessInsider! BusinessInsider is where I consume news and US markets, US technology and random stuff like slideshows of aircraft carriers and 11 Things I Didn’t Know About Stevie Cohen. It is definitely the junkiest business news aggregator but that’s what makes it great – you always find something relevant because its coverage is so broad.

Localisation can miss the point when your foreign visitors are there for the fact that you are a foreign source of information.

When I visit the Financial Times “logged out”, I’m redirected to the Asian edition of the FT. I love my pink paper, and when I visit the FT I want to read things primarily about the United Kingdom. If I wanted to read about Asia I’d probably go to Bloomberg or the South China Morning Post through Victoria’s PressDisplay subscription.

When I visit the Wall Street Journal, I’m redirected to the Asian edition. While most of the WSJ is gated, there are some good opinion columns and blogs that satisfy the “long tail” interests I have like how Chapter 11 bankruptcies function and following white collar crime cases. Again, if I had a subscription there I’d be able to choose my preferences.

All in all, localisation misses the point for me. I visit foreign news sources because they are foreign and I have a specific desire to consume content from the country they are published in. Redirecting the WSJ to the Asian edition is as useful to me as the National Business Review having a “Europe Edition” if I visited their online edition from the South of France.

I’m sure someone has written a script that stops sites redirecting you based on where you are. Until then, the main solution is to either ignore the website that redirects you or pay for an account. I am almost at the point where the benefit of a Financial Times subscription would exceed its cost!

When you think about it – that’s probably their intention. “If we thwart the ability of foreign potential subscribers to easily access the content a decent percentage will stump up for a subscription”.

BidSketch For Client Proposals

One of the harder parts of doing freelance work is creating proposals that win over clients and put food on your table.

BidSketch is a tool that enables you to set up really nice looking proposals, let clients accept proposals online using electronic signatures and link it all to the time tracking or accounting software you use like Harvest and Xero.

When I signed up for BidSketch last week I was skeptical. But here are some of the features I think make it a great way to handle proposals:

  • clients can accept or decline the proposal in the window
  • when you get an acceptance with an electronic signature, that’s a contract in law
  • there are templates that you can work from to write the proposal in a way that highlights the benefits to the customer

I haven’t sent my first BidSketch proposal yet, but working on the drafts is a lot easier than typing something up from a blank page in Google Drive!

I intend to use BidSketch for internal, on-the-job proposals as well (I’m a contractor). Documenting internal projects would be far easier. For example, you could link the proposal to a new Harvest project and have the time as “non-billable” so you can see how much time you’re spending on internal stuff.

The catch however is that it’s another SaaS subscription. That’s the rub for SaaS – each additional service costs you money. The plan I’d sign up for would be the US$29 / month one – US$360 / year.

In order to make BidSketch pay for itself, I’d only need to win one proposal. I think that’s as good a case as any for an SaaS product.

I look forward to testing different formats of proposals over the coming few months. You should check out the feature tour of BidSketch. I think economists doing consulting work would find it an easy segue into using more SaaS tools in their business.


Limited RSS Feeds Are Selfish

I don’t subscribe to any RSS feeds that are not “full content” feeds.

If you don’t enable me to consume your content in Google Reader over my morning coffee, I won’t read you.

Limited RSS feeds are selfish. Forcing someone to click through to your website to see extra content is “old school” thinking.

There’s nothing wrong in asking for an email address before sharing more detailed content like an eBook or a training course.

But anything less than full content in your RSS feed is inappropriate in the modern world.

Just like sites that don’t let me save long articles to Pocket, Readability or Instapaper; blogs that don’t have full RSS feeds are no longer on my reading list.

If you run a blog, make sure your RSS feeds include your full content!

Do you think bloggers should only use full content RSS feeds? You can get free updates about my writing and the inside line on eBooks and other digital content I’m working on. I’d love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment!

How Picking Winners Misses The Point

The government thinks that targeted subsidies, tax credits and policy will take our economy to the next level. But picking winners – this includes industries – misses the point behind why we have fewer start-ups than we should have for a country supposedly with a No-8 wire mentality.

The biggest obstacle to starting a business is not having any money. Working backwards from that, an economy that delivers consistent increases in the cost of living alongside negligible increases in real incomes is the root cause of a lack of entrepreneurial drive leading us out of the biggest setback to our economy since the Great Depression.

It would be awesome if all business ideas could be bootstrapped from an untapped credit card balance, but the sort of technology ideas that is possible with won’t lead to massive net job creation.

Technology start-ups will deliver a lot of high skill jobs and some lower skill support roles. But nowhere near enough to create dozens of new cottage industries that will employ the 175,000 unemployed marginal workers.

When the government focuses on spending money directly on financing R&D they’re admitting failure. If the economy functioned properly – rising incomes, falling costs and an ability for the average household to experiment with entrepreneurship without signing over their entire asset base – there’d be no need for technology grants and the like.


100 Startups Are Better Than 1

This week we saw another example of politically connected firms transferring wealth to insiders by way of government technology grants and subsequent asset flips to overseas investors.

$10 million that went to Endace to create R&D jobs in New Zealand. Those were very expensive jobs. And the asset value created has been captured by insiders with very little return on investment for taxpayers.

If the goal is to actually stimulate high-skill employment, rather than transfer taxpayer wealth to politically connected entrepreneurs, any technology grant policy needs to be far more cognisant of how the real world works.

Entrepreneurship is a trial and error occupation.

We have no idea which ideas will work until they’ve worked.

So trying to pick winners by giving one firm almost $10 million is bad policy.

There is no guarantee that Endace would get bought out thus justifying the grants they received!

It would be far smarter to give 100 startups just $100,000 each and free office space in a building in Wellington previously occupied by public sector tenants.

Something like BizDojo, but shifting the cost of a startup to buying yourself a laptop and using your grant money to cover server expenses and low level contracting like web design or more experienced developers.

The spillover effects from a density of young (no baby boomers need apply) developers, engineers and researchers living on mince and hot desking for 12 months would be far smarter than the current policy.

I think that Lightning Lab is far better policy but nowhere near the scale necessary to produce a major boost to high skill employment and wealth creation led by technology innovation.