‘We’re about hiring journalists’: Insider Inc. launches third global news hub in Singapore

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While a number of publishers have curbed their international expansion visions, Insider Inc. is plowing on full steam ahead. 

The Business Insider publisher is announcing this week the launch of a news bureau in Singapore, kicking off with four reporters and a salesperson. The global hub will publish English-language content. Outside of New York, the publisher opened its London bureau in 2014, where it now has over 100 staffers. 

Insider has had its sights on Asia Pacific to expand its tech and business coverage for some time. The Singapore launch was pegged for the first half of this year, pushed back due to coronavirus. Roughly 10% of its audience already comes from APAC, approximately 22 million monthly active users, the publisher said.

“Getting 24/7 coverage is important as we start to be a much bigger international news brand,” said Julian Childs, svp and regional managing director, Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific at Insider, Inc. “As a business, we’re about hiring journalists. If that’s the core mission, stopping the growth engine is the worst thing you can do, you end up treading water. If you’re treading water in the old environment, you’re really going to struggle in the new. What this has done is concentrate the focus even more.”

Equally important is the potential of the APAC programmatic ad landscape, which is poised for growth. In APAC, programmatic ads account for roughly 36% of digital ads in 2020, according to a 2018 report form Boston Consulting Group. In the U.S. it’s closer to 88%, according to eMarketer, (now Insider Intelligence which merged with Busines Insider Intelligence in May).

Insider Inc. has been running programmatic campaigns in APAC since May, programmatic ad revenue in the region for August has doubled year-over-year, although it wouldn’t say from what base.

While the U.S. makes up the vast majority of revenue for Insider, international ad revenue is growing double digits. The publisher is also well into double figures on direct programmatic campaigns in APAC, this is coming from a spread of industries that are showing recovery like finance (it’s working with global brands like DBS and Standard Chartered), financial services, enterprise tech, consumer tech and even across consumer packaged goods. Insider has over a dozen international license partners, a number of ventures with local media companies in APAC — Business Insider India comes from a partnership with Times Internet Limited, for instance — the Singapore hub will tighten those ties of working together more closely.

The Singapore hub coincides with the launch of a multi-year global campaign with financial services company ING. The brand is sponsoring its annual editorial package 100 People Transforming Business, which covers game-changers in tech and business, creating a version for Asia, U.S and Europe, rather than just one global list. The Singapore hub itself will start off selling ads programmatically, but Insider anticipates more of these global campaigns with local variants. It wouldn’t share how much it’s charging ING.    

Singapore suffers from a lack of premium supply: 62% say this is the second biggest barrier to programmatic ad growth, while 67% say that targeting the right audiences is a leading challenge, according to eMarketer. To solve this problem, Insider has been ramping up its first-party data platform Sága ahead of the full decimation of third-party cookies.

Sága makes Insider an attractive partner, said Vincent Niou, associate vice president, programmatic and data strategy, APAC at Essence. Market-specific, rather than pan-regional, newsroom coverage will also grow the publisher’s appeal, he said.

“The programmatic landscape across APAC is quite fragmented, there are global publishers like Insider Inc. and CNN that have a regional presence,” said Niou. “Most marketers think of China as a different region to APAC.”

Putting a number on it, Niou said roughly 80% of the campaigns Essence runs are local language with local publishers. The rest — that would call for a more pan-regional publisher — are less common but require large global clients to pull them off and, naturally, fetch a higher price tag. 

While there is a demand for quality supply in the region, it’s circumstantial and client-specific, said Niou, some clients are looking for the most cost-effective way of reaching people in a region where the CPMs are relatively low.

A lot of publishers are emerging leaner and battle-hardened from the worst of the coronavirus. Rather than layoffs, Insider has been able to redeploy staffers into areas where the business is still growing and less impacted. Since March, it’s added over 120 hires globally, 15% of those have been in London and Singapore. Publishers are broadly seeing upticks in programmatic ads rates over the last two months. 

“I’m optimistically cautious,” said Childs. “We’re seeing encouraging signs in different parts of the business, in some areas getting close to pre-pandemic levels. Asia is a good indicator, it’s coming out a bit faster than Europe, those trends are stimulating the market. In China programmatic ads continue to grow, we’ll see that bleed into confidence in the U.S. in the next quarter.”

Update: An earlier version of this article stated eMarketer was a separate company. The firm merged with Business Insider Intelligence in May.


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