As broken this afternoon by Wall Street Journal media reporter Lukas I. Alpert, Business Insider president and COO Julie Hansen has decided to move on. At the turn of the New Year, she will be joining a start-up venture outside the media space.
Below is the note sent out today to BI staff by Henry Blodget, who frames Hansen’s impending departure with a review of what has been a very busy year for the company:
I am pleased and proud to report that 2016 is shaping up to be one of the best years we have ever had.
As we have discussed all year, the digital-media industry is evolving rapidly, with several key changes happening all at once. As ever, change creates challenges and opportunities. Navigating such periods is never easy. But great companies are built in these periods. And thanks to the nimbleness, creativity, and grit that you have shown, we have made amazing progress this year.
* We have set new readership and viewership records and now serve more than 300 million people each month (110+ million unique visitors on our sites and 200+ million more on other platforms and sites. We have also grown our video viewership to a staggering 2 billion views per month.)
* We have launched 5 new international editions, bringing our total to 12
* We have designed and launched several new properties, including INSIDER and Markets Insider, reengineered Viking and our backend architecture, and improved the speed, features, reliability, and performance of all of our services
* We have expanded our subscription service and now serve more than 100 enterprise clients and tens of thousands of individual members
* We have launched distributed content and e-commerce services and built them into multi-million dollar revenue streams
* We have embraced programmatic and native ads and grown them so rapidly that they now account for more than half of our overall ad revenue
* We have launched an “ad-light” subscription service for readers and viewers who prefer to pay us directly for a super fast and light version of BI called “BI Prime”
* We have posted another year of record revenue growth and remain on track to meet our bottom-line target
In short, we have done exactly what we set out to do: Delight our audience and clients and get better every day.
I will share details of our 2017 plan with you in December, but our mission will remain the same. We will stay focused on serving our audience and clients. And we will continue to invest in growth.
Val, Spencer, and our events team have put together a spectacular program for next week’s IGNITION conference. We look forward to having many of you join us at the Time Warner Center next Monday afternoon to kick it off. (You’re all invited — in person or via stream). We will toast several things at the opening reception, including the protagonist in the news story that follows.
Those of you who have been with us for a while have heard me tell the story of the early days of Business Insider — then called “Silicon Alley Insider” — which we launched in the loading dock of another startup nine years ago. For the first year, we were just a small group of journalists banging away trying to develop a large enough readership that we could eventually sell some ads and stay alive. One year in, happily, we had built that readership. But we then had three new problems: 1) We didn’t know how to sell ads, 2) we didn’t know how to build products and technology, and 3) we didn’t know how to organize and manage a team bigger than five.
So we needed some help!
The help arrived in the form of Julie Hansen, a former college classmate of mine and a digital-media executive from Conde Nast, CBS, and Time Warner.
Julie obviously had the technology and business chops. But did she have the flexibility, creativity, and relentless drive necessary to help a fragile startup survive? And — a more delicate question — did she have the patience and fortitude necessary to deal with an impatient, creative type like me?
Julie assured me she had dealt with plenty of crazy bosses who were way more of a pain in the ass than I was likely to be.
So we went for it.
And, for the past eight years, I could not imagine having had a better partner, colleague, and friend.
Business Insider’s success\has been a team effort — the result of hundreds of people working together to create something cool out of nothing. There have been many critical contributors to that success over the years. And no one has been more critical than Julie. We simply would not be where we are without her.
But nothing is forever. And at Business Insider, we always encourage our teammates to pursue opportunities that are the best fit for them at any given time — here or elsewhere. So when Julie told me recently that she missed the excitement (and terror) of the loading-dock days and that she had been offered the CEO role at a startup, I encouraged her to take it. And she has.
(I won’t steal Julie’s thunder by telling you the name of the company, but it’s cool. It’s also in a different business than we are. So we can full-throatedly root for Julie’s success. And our tech journalists can have a well-placed source at the top of a thriving company).
Julie will be with us full-time through the end of this year. And she will then be available as needed in early 2017.
Julie and I have been preparing for this transition for the last few weeks, and we will work together over the next several months to make sure it is smooth. After a few years of focusing primarily on editorial and new products, I will take direct responsibility for Julie’s responsibilities and teams. I am excited to do so. We have great teams in place in all three pillars of our company — editorial, product/tech, and business — and I am looking forward to working more closely with the product and business teams. I will ask many of you to take on additional responsibilities. On the assumption that I will ultimately be more useful on the editorial side, I will also launch a search for a senior executive to lead our revenue and business growth. But given the strength of the teams and people we have in place, I am not in a hurry.
Thanks to your amazing efforts on behalf of our audience and clients — and your creativity, flexibility, and spirit in adapting to the rapid changes in our industry — 2016 is shaping up to a great year. 2017 will undoubtedly bring more opportunities and challenges, just as this year has. And we will again rise to them.
So at the opening reception for Ignition next week, we will raise a toast to Julie, to our strong finish to 2016, and to an exciting, dynamic, and successful 2017.
It is a privilege and pleasure to work with all of you.
Blodget included in his missive the photo above, which shows Hansen (in the background) and colleague Sarah Seehafer moving to larger BI offices back in 2011.