Bloomberg’s move into consumer media

By Felix Salmon
October 6, 2010

Bloomberg CEO Dan Doctoroff wants to become a fully-fledged media mogul, not just in the hermetic space of financial terminals, but in consumer-facing media too. He tells Keith Kelly that the more inescapable Bloomberg’s media properties are, the better the terminals will do:

Said Doctoroff, “We want to gain a greater audience for Bloomberg News, which translates into greater influence, which translates into more market-moving news, which enables us to sell more terminals.”

Ryan Chittum is not convinced:

Hard to see how you’re going to use news to sell more $20,000 a year terminals if you’re dumping more of the same news on your Web sites for free.

I’m with Doctoroff on this one. The more ubiquitous Bloomberg’s news, the more terminals it will sell. The bigger and the better-known you are, the more quickly you’ll get your calls returned and the more exclusive access to newsmakers you will receive. In turn, that improves the quality of your news product, and the willingness of financial professionals to pay $20,000 a year for it.

Those professionals really don’t care if the news is on a Bloomberg website or not; as far as the market is concerned, the information is public as soon as it hits the terminal in any case. The competition for Bloomberg terminals is other terminals, not the web. And insofar as the web provides any competition at all, it’s the web as a whole which does so, not that tiny little corner of the web which is published by Bloomberg. The web is simply too big: no matter how much beefed-up Bloomberg content is “dumped” onto it, that’s never going to suddenly make it a much more attractive alternative to a purpose-built news and information terminal designed very specifically for financial professionals.

Instead, the web will give Bloomberg valuable visibility among the kind of people who will never use a terminal of any description, including large swathes of Washington as well as important people in the non-profit area, or the education sector, or any number of other important yet non-financial industries. And the more that they see and respect the brand, the more likely they are to become valuable sources for exactly the stories that traders with terminals want to see.

The point is that Bloomberg can profit from an asymmetry: if a Capitol Hill staffer reads B Gov a lot, she’ll be more likely to talk to the Bloomberg commodities reporter calling from New York or Sao Paulo. Which is why Doctoroff’s strategy makes sense, and Chittum’s skepticism is misplaced.

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