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At Bloomberg: the facts are not enough?

At Bloomberg: the facts are not enough?

What’s next for Bloomberg LP? A long report by Gabriel Sherman for New York Magazine offers insight into the inner workings of financial media giant, owned by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The article describes Bloomberg LP’s style up to this point as plain, and facts-obsessed, and “wildly profitable”. As paidContent observes, the company makes money by selling detailed financial information to 300,000 global customers at a charge of about $20,000 a year. However, Sherman writes that as Bloomberg diversifies beyond its core business, it is finding that the same model of nothing-but-pure-information journalism does not always apply. 

According to Sherman, Bloomberg News’ editor in chief Matthew Winkler requires his employees to adopt a style “designed to strip all interpretation from the news, leaving behind nothing but facts.” Sherman writes that Bloomberg journalists are constantly assessed on their performance, the time that they spend at their terminal is measured, and they are awarded points based on how many clicks their stories receive. (He quotes a former Bloomberg reporter: “It was well known and is well known that if you write a story about Goldman Sachs, sex, Viagra, Tiger Woods, and Barack Obama, you’d get a huge number of clicks.” Fishbowl NY snaps back, “We assume bonus points are awarded if all five are mentioned in the same article.”)

The Atlantic Wire responds to the article with the headline “Bloomberg's Journalism Doesn't Sound Very Fun," but New York Magazine points out that the company’s strategy has made it highly successful at selling market information to financial traders.

Yet as Bloomberg tries to expand its editorial operations in different areas, it has not always done so well, suggests Sherman. “In a way, Bloomberg LP is like Google: It has one wildly successful business model (selling data to banks in the case of Bloomberg; search in the case of Google),” he writes, but “efforts to expand beyond the core business of leasing terminals to financial firms have failed to produce similar results.”

Sherman takes the example of Bloomberg TV, which he says has not succeeded in grabbing audience from CNBC and was not successful in brokering a deal to partner with ABC News. “Part of the problem is that Winkler remains resistant to adopting some of the entertainment values that could attract an audience,” writes Sherman, “last year, producers inserted a clip from The Princess Bride into a segment about the wild volatility in the market. ‘Winkler went batshit,’ one person familiar with the matter said. ‘He wrote out a note saying that we shouldn’t mix fiction with news.’” Sherman also notes that Bloomberg's opinion division Bloomberg View has suffered from clashes among senior editorial staff.

Bloomberg has faired somewhat better in other areas. Sherman writes that it bought up Businessweek in 2009, a time when executives thought that it “may have been losing in excess of $40 million a year.” Despite early friction between Winkler and the editor of Bloomberg Businessweek Josh Tyrangiel (formerly of, Sherman writes that the magazine developed to win praise and its loses are supposed to shrink to $18 million this year – not great, but a significant improvement.

Bloomberg is also expanding in other areas, more in line with its traditional business. PaidContent takes a detailed look at Bloomberg’s recent move into selling legal data, noting that the company has invested almost just under $1 billion to buy legal information company BNA, and has reportedly hired “hundreds of lawyers” to help put together its store of information. But paidContent notes that, while Bloomberg Legal has already secured some big clients for a trial period, the market in legal information may be set to become increasingly crowded.

When talking about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s next big move for the company, several publications also report that he is rumoured to eyeing up the New York Times, although few take the speculation seriously (Fishbowl NY is fairly dismissive, for example).

In a separate article for New York Magazine, Sherman writes, “Purchasing the New York Times is perhaps the most often discussed next act for Michael Bloomberg. He may not see the Times as a business, but on a certain level, the paper is an irresistible trophy. Bloomberg so far has made no moves to obtain it.” Sherman also adds that Bloomberg may have his eye on the Financial Times instead.

Sources: NYMag (1) (2) paidContent, Fishbowl NY (1) (2), The Atlantic Wire


Hannah Vinter


2012-06-05 15:40

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