Bloomberg overstretch watch, Zipcar edition

By Felix Salmon
June 11, 2009

Dealscape joins in the Bloomberg-bashing:

Bloomberg’s attempt to wring a bit of news out of an apparently boring interview with Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith makes it clear the traditional news outlets are often just as guilty of churning out nonsense as the user-generated content, blogs and tweets they fear.

Yet again, Bloomberg has overstretched when newsifying a boring Bloomberg interview. In this case, the headline (“Zipcar Seeks IPO”) is based entirely on speculative quotes from analysts following the company — including one who says outright that Zipcar hasn’t even started talking to bankers — and has no basis in anything from inside the company whatsoever. I have no idea why Bloomberg felt the need to sex up a non-story in this manner, but I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

Update: Bloomberg issued an interesting statement to Clusterstock:

“We have the Zipcar CEO ON TAPE saying that IPO is absolutely ‘the right outcome for us.’ When asked when, he said ’2010,’” a Bloomberg spokesperson tells us.

This is fascinating, because none of that information — neither the “right outcome” quote nor the specifics of the 2010 date — made it in to the original article. It’s not like there was a lack of space: he’s quoted as saying banal things like “we’re growing in a year where flat is the new up”.

Which raises an interesting possibility: that the CEO went off the record for the IPO material, and that the journalist, Julie Ziegler, took the hint and ran with it, quoting other people about the IPO but not quoting the CEO himself. But when Zipcar objected to Bloomberg’s article, Ziegler decided that the off-the-record comments weren’t so off-the-record after all, any more.

This is pure speculation: I know nothing of the interview. But there is a big difficulty in writing a story based on information you got on an off-the-record basis. Normally you’d just cite “sources close to the company” or something, but that looks really weird when the only quoted source in the article is the CEO. If I’m right, though, I do wonder how high up the Bloomberg hierarchy the decision was taken to go public with comments which were meant to be off the record.

Update 2: The NY Post talked to the CEO, too, and also came out thinking IPO.

Update 3: Zipcar filed to go public in June 2010.

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Comments
7 comments so far

One likely contributor — Bloomberg reporters are required to come up with a “scoop” once every month. (Maybe it’s two months, I forget. I know a few folks who work over there.) Usually that’s not a hard threshold to meet, but sometimes it seems to encourage some contortions.

Posted by scarpy | Report as abusive

Ooops..another update needed…The Deal climbed down from their “Bloomberg is wrong” hed…
http://www.thedeal.com/dealscape/2009/06  /zipcar_hits_pedal_towards_2010.php

Hey, I’m thinking of starting a web site called Felix Salmon is a Bitter Loser Who is Angry Bloomberg Rejected His Job Application.
I mean, hey, I know it’s pure speculation, but why not, right Felix? Who are your sources? Green Helmet Guy? Got any pix of Israeli aircraft allegedly firing missles? Reuters has tons…of course, not without Photoshop.
Pot. Kettle. Black.

Posted by I.F.Stoner | Report as abusive

Oh Felix, you and your making things up as if it was news and thats why Reuters calls you a columnist and not a journalist. You ARE SO CUTE !!!!

Posted by Dr. Hibbert | Report as abusive

SALMON GETS IT WRONG…AGAIN. OR MAYBE REUTERS IS WRONG AND FELIX IS RIGHT?

Reuters reported that Zipcar will “join the real economy with an IPO in 2011.”
http://www.reuters.com/article/bigMoney/ idUS115404326520090611

Somebody has their head up their Palin-hole…who could it be?

Posted by I'm Just Sayin' | Report as abusive

The story to which Just Sayin’ posted a link now has its own update:

“UPDATE: Nothing like new information to upend news: Zipcar IPO perhaps not on. Still, I like my analysis. Let’s just pretend Zipcar might have an IPO.”

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

@I’m Just Sayin’: That’s not a Reuters article, it’s from The Big Money, which syndicates some of its content on Reuters.com

Quit your Felix bashing because he’s probably right. The fact is every CEO of a VC-backed company will tell you an IPO is an eventual goal. What are they going to say when faced with the exit plan question? What CEO is going to say “Yeah, I plan on running this company into the ground.”

Posted by Anonynmous | Report as abusive
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