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Bloomberg news, future of news
Matt Winkler, editor-in-chief of
Bloomberg News

Bloomberg News Grows as Newspapers Shrink

November 19, 2008 11:00 AM
by Liz Colville
Expanding on its subscription-based financial news and data, Bloomberg News is prospering at a time when many major newspapers are making cuts.

Money-Making News

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In the mid-1990s, Matt Winkler developed the concept of Bloomberg News, insisting that staff adhere to strict reporting rules and long hours. As Seth Mnookin, contributing editor at Vanity Fair, suggests, it was Winkler’s emotional and often temperamental approach to news reporting that helped take Bloomberg News to the higher echelons, building upon its financial data terminal, which was created in the early 1980s and remains the company’s chief profit maker, leased to companies around the world at a monthly rate of $1,500–$1,800.

Mnookin recently proclaimed on his blog that Bloomberg News is “just about the only news organization on the planet that seems to be making any money these days.” As major newspapers like the Los Angeles Times cut staff and The Christian Science Monitor decides to scrap print altogether, Bloomberg News has 2,300 staff members and 135 bureaus around the world and is looking to grow its multimedia output.

To that end, Bloomberg News has several old hands of the newspaper industry at its helm. Winkler, a former bonds reporter at The Wall Street Journal, remains the editor-in-chief, and former NBC executive Andrew Lack was recently named the CEO of Bloomberg’s television, radio and interactive operations in a move to bring the company’s multimedia operations in line with its financial data and news or, as president Daniel Doctoroff put it, “be the best at everything we decide to do.” In a press release Doctoroff called Lack a “news legend” for his work in the 1990s turning NBC shows like “Meet the Press,” “The Today Show” and “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw” into “the No. 1 rated shows in their respective time slots,” according to Mediabistro.com.

Norman Pearlstine, former editor-in-chief of Time, Inc. and former managing and executive editor of The Wall Street Journal, is the chief content officer of Bloomberg News; he was hired in 2007.

In an analysis of operations at Bloomberg for Vanity Fair, Mnookin suggests that the company is succeeding not as a rival to newspapers, but as a supplement, with several newspapers publishing branded Bloomberg pages in place of their own content. Bloomberg may pose a threat to leading wires like the Associated Press and Thomson-Reuters, though the latter sees Bloomberg more positively—as a possible purchase.

Background: How Bloomberg News blossomed

Bloomberg LP eschews advertising as its chief source of revenue, rejecting the business model that so many newspapers are founded upon. Like the top news wires, Bloomberg News sells its content to newspapers worldwide, but also profits greatly—at a rate of about $1.5 billion annually—from Bloomberg LP’s terminals, which revolutionized financial data packaging in the early 1980s. It is a subscription-based service that combines news and data “with sophisticated analytical software that allows traders to swiftly execute and track trades,” according to The New York Times, which in June reported on Thomson-Reuters’ eyeing of Bloomberg LP as a possible acquisition.
Once confined to a Bloomberg desktop system, the terminals now appear on handhelds and regular computers, but are still relatively expensive. The cost could be a hurdle in the future, as the Times notes: both Bloomberg and Thomson-Reuters “face common enemies in sites like Yahoo Finance and Google Finance, which offer a much lower level of sophistication and depth but are improving and are, after all, free.”

But Mnookin suggests that Bloomberg News will continue to prosper as a distributor of information that news sources need not only to write their own stories but to replace them—an option that newspapers could see as much more favorable than eliminating some of their sections entirely.

As president Daniel Doctoroff told Mnookin, “Bloomberg News can cover regional core industries and sell that content for a price that’s significantly less than what newspapers would need to pay their own staffs to do the same thing. … And it doesn’t have to just be true for business or financial news either.”

Related Topic: Newspapers cutting staff, going digital

In April 2009, The Christian Science Monitor plans to become the “first newspaper with a national audience to shift from a daily print format to an online publication that is updated continuously each day.” This news came in the midst of a second wave of staff cuts at the Los Angeles Times, owned by the Tribune Company, and followed a June study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism showing that newspaper cuts around the country are changing news coverage significantly, with many shifting emphasis to local news and eliminating entire sections. Still, according to an AP article on the study, 56 percent of editors surveyed “said their news product is better than it was three years ago because coverage is more targeted.”

At the same time, a shift to digital news is “fatiguing” news readers, particularly those in the 18–34 age bracket, according to a study commissioned by the Associated Press earlier this year. Many news publications focus on shorter, breaking news stories, and many young readers surveyed said they found it hard to get past headlines and ledes to deeper content or background information. As a response to the survey findings, AP came up with a new model for news reporting called “1-2-3 filing,” which puts its stories in one of three categories: ledes, shorter stories, and more substantial, enterprise-length pieces.
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