Business Insider Ignites New York

NYC’s Time Warner Center

In compiling the questions for this week’s much-shared “PR 3.0 Questionnaire,” I did some research to see where various blogs and news sites ranked by unique monthly visitors in relation to one another. I hadn’t done this exercise in a while, but pretty much assumed that Boing Boing no longer topped the list as it had for years as blogging grew its sea legs.

BB remains a most respectable #15 of the list with its 3.5M uniques. That might change after a brave (and nervous) Xeni Jardin took her 50K Twitter followers through the exam and results of her mammogram this week.

What surprised me about the blog analysis was just how far one of my fave sites has climbed into the top tier of blogdom with its 12M+ monthly uniques. The Business Insider not only blew past TechCrunch, but also left PerezHilton, Gawker, Engadget, Mashable and other big-branded blogs en route to its boffo #3 slot behind only Huffington Post and TMZ.

(Would one even consider Business Insider, HuffPost and TMZ “blogs.” Aren’t they really just shorter form and dynamic news/opinion sites? We’ll look at that question another day.)

Mark Cuban

Business Insider’s ascendant influence, its business acumen, and cool New York sensibility, is no doubt giving AllThingsD a run for its money when it comes to talent acquisition in the conference game. While nothing will ever compare to Walt Mossberg chatting up Steve Jobs and Bill Gates together at the D5 conference in 2007, Business Insider’s Ignition 2011 conference this week at the Time Warner Center certainly drew more than its share of media and tech luminaries.

Glenn Beck Ignites (credit: BI’s Matthew Lynley)

Among the digerati were Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (who joined Mayor Mike the next day at FB’s NY offices to announce an engineering office in the Big Apple and lots of new jobs), Twitter’s chief revenue officer Adam Bain, Gilt Groupe founder/CEO Kevin Ryan; NBC and News Corp’s digital chiefs Schiller and Miller, respectively, Pandora’s Joe Kennedy, Federated Media’s John Battelle, the always quotable Mark Cuban, the notorious Glenn Beck, Hulu’s Jason Kilar, Google’s Developer Advocate Donald Dodge,  Eric Hippeau,’s Samir Arora, SecondMarket’s Barry Silbert, PiperJaffray’s Gene Munster, Kleiner Perkins’ Aileen Lee, and the list goes on.

Business Insider founder/ed-in-chief Henry Blodget

Business Insider founder and editor-in-chief Henry Blodget served as a most competent impresario for which he deftly tackled moderating duties with the most luminous of the luminaries: Sandberg, Miller & Schiller, Battelle, Kennedy.

His grounding in tech equity research and more recent embrace of the evolving media and mobile content worlds served him and the audience well – thankfully, since the event format didn’t allow for questions from the floor.

My client commitments prevented me from attending all the presentations, but the several that I did were well worth it.  The first day opened up with Blodget giving a topline on the changed media landscape. Some notable quotables included:

“…the future of media is already here…all the power has shifted to digital…content is distantly less important than distribution”

“Where’s the digital growth going forward: social, video, display, ecommerce (daily deals), mobile.”

Twitter’s chief revenue officer Adam Bain

Next up was Twitter’s chief revenue officer Adam Bain who took a shot at answering the #NYTM-banned question: how’re you gonna make money? First the metrics:

“Twitter has 100M users/month, 50M log-ins/daily, 2400 advertisers, a renewal ad rate of 80%, and a conversion rate for promoted tweets of 3-5%…”

So there! He then got a bit more granular, as if Twitter weren’t granular enough:

“…50% of our usage is through mobile…we have an incredible connectivity with TV biz.”

“The ad sales team is already built to sell…promoted tweets, promoted trends, promoted accounts”

As for metrics to measure user engagement, Bain said:

“Retweeting and favoriting messages are signs of engagement…and again, we have a 3-5% response rate…”

Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster

I didn’t really think I’d care much about what PiperJaffray’s Gene Munster had to say — that is, until he started talking. Munster follows Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), among other things in TMT, and as such, he’s consumed with all things emanating from Cupertino, CA.

He kicked it off by asking the audience how many owned at least one Apple device. Two? Three?  It was clear he was speaking to an audience of the Apple-converted. There wasn’t a lowered hand in the bunch. Here are some Munster snippets and the audio of his preso (ends at 19:37):

“Apple is a very secretive company. In fact they [intentionally] give us misinformation.”

“Apple’s international blueprint for expansion: lead with the iPhone, follow with a retail presence, enhance with apps.”

“We have confirmation of an iPad3 in March 2012, iPhone 5 in August 2012 and iOS 6 in 2013.”

“Don’t buy a TV right now. Wait until the 2012 holidays when Apple enters the TV market in a big way. In fact, we think SONY will eventually get blocked out of the living room by Apple.”

“We’re bullish on Apple’s sales figures for December…more iPads were sold on Black Friday than the Street was led to believe.”

Photo: Michael Seto

The morning continued with Flipboard‘s editorial director Josh Quittner opining on the issue of to pay or not to pay for content and the staying power of Apple’s iOS:

“I’ll pay for, HBO, my Internet service provider (Time-Warner), but not much more.”

“We love iOS. It’s a phenomenal platform that has some much life left in it, but it is a three-way race between Google, Amazon and Apple.”

Some other bites from the first day of Ignition 2011:’s Founder & CEO Samir Aora:

“100% of Glam’s revenue is from premium advertising…we have 4000 writers in ‘the long tail’…Glam is the outside Facebook social media web. The click? It’s already changed. We have the data that’s not click-based.”

Buzzfeed‘s Jonah Peretti on “how you make something go viral.”

“The biggest factor for virality is the network, i.e., the right network at the right time with the right idea.”

 BI’s Blodget, NBC’s Schiller, NWS’s Miller (l. to r.) 

Here’s an abridged audio clip of Jonah’s preso that ends at 16:15.

NBC’s Digital Chief Vivian Schiller

“The TV industry has been behind other mediums in terms of embracing digital.”

News Corp’s Digital Chief Jon Miller regarding the newly announced YouTube network and video at The Journal:

“You move where the market’s moving…we’re training all WSJ reporters to file video reports.”

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

Here’s some abridged audio (ends at 15:23)

The second day of the conference opened up with a tete a tete between Henry Blodget and Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg that concluded with Blodget nudging her to run for the U.S. Presidency — a suggestion to which this particular audience did not object.

Here’s the full audio of the interview (RT: 60 mins +/)

And some of the bites:

“What I saw FB doing: technology powering us as real people.”

“What Mark [Zuckerberg] did first at scale was creating ‘privacy you can control’…We really do take this [privacy] incredibly seriously.”

“What Mark worries about the most is a lack of change and lack of innovation…the innovators dilemma…the most important thing Mark & I focus on is how to stay innovating, i.e. keeping teams small.”

“Everything is better if it’s social (w/friends)…Wisdom of friends is better than wisdom of crowds…Facebook is as interesting as what your friends do and share”

“Our business strategy is distinguished from most other players…we are a very deep partnership company.”

“Our product strategy is as different from Google’s as two companies can get…we’re much more integrated.”

“We have 35 million people updating their status (check-ins) every single day.”

“I don’t want to speculate about a Facebook phone…our strategy really is to be a social (horizontal) layer to work on every device.”

Re: Google’s ramp-up versus Facebook’s: “It’s not about mapping to any one trajectory. It’s about building user base and engagement.”

Re: Google+ “Imitation is highest form of flattery and Google+ is flattering.”

“I don’t think Google is evil. We care a lot that Android stays true to its promise of being open.”

Blodget w/ Federated Media’s John Battelle

The last full session I attended featured Mr. Blodget and Federated Media’s founder and search/web/media/technology  visionary John Battelle, who ironically, played a similar role journalistically during the dot-com era (as editor of The Industry Standard) that Blodget seems to be enjoying now as Business Insider’s chief.

Here’s the audio (RT: 21:33) and some notable quotes:

“Federated Media powers ‘the independent web,’ including all of WordPress. We have a reach of 200MM uniques.”

“The quality of a site’s content and where it resides ‘matters deeply’ in terms of advertiser engagement.”

“I believe the independent web is a multi-billion dollar space…equal to or larger than the portals.”

“I don’t believe all brands should put their tap-roots into Facebook, though they should play there.”

“Five ‘horseman’ that have a play in the ‘operating system of our lives:’ Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple….all of which will pivot 3 or 4 times over the next decade.”

My only regrets: missing Mark Cuban speak and paidContent founder Rafat Ali sticking it to Glenn Beck. Here’s how Rafat described the moment.

Photos: Peter Himler with a Canon PowerShot SX20 IS; Audio: Olympus DS2 digital audio recorder

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