Thomson Reuters CEO: No paper, please

February 25, 2009

Thomson Reuters Corp, the company that employs me and runs this blog, posted fourth-quarter financial results on Tuesday. My colleague and I wrote them up for the wire, and you can see them here. Meanwhile, here’s something that didn’t make it in to the story that we wanted to share.

During a conference call with reporters, I asked Chief Executive Tom Glocer, who ran Reuters before Thomson Corp bought it, what the company plans to do regarding investing in news. I also asked if the company could ever be in the market for another print newspaper. Remember that Thomson Reuters likes to tout the fact that Thomson Corp long ago got out of the newspaper business, thinking there was more of a future in electronic information that you make people pay a lot of money for.

On news spending:

We’ve continued to invest in news and we think 2009 is a very good year in investment for us both in terms of having brought in some of the journalists who have joined from Thomson Financial, but also investments we’re making in new editorial systems, in the video, multimedia presentation of news. So I think one of the good things about the strength of our financial performance is that we can continue to invest when a lot of pure media companies aren’t.

On getting “back” into the newspaper business (I asked whether the Financial Times or The New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune would be good fits, specifically. But why not The New York Times? Everyone with more than a few pennies to rub together is a candidate to buy it these days.)

[Thomson was] so early in getting out of newspapers that now to go back in when our business model is so focused on professionals and so overwhemingly electronic doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. … If there were a fantastic information product that was 95 percent electronic and 5 percent a print output device, we would do it — maybe — if it otherwise made sense. I’m not convinced that we know how to run a newspaper any better than the ones running them today.

If newspapers keep cutting their print editions, it might not be long before the “95-5″ ratio is normal in big U.S. cities.

(Photo: Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer on left, with two people to the right who do plenty of things on paper. In the middle is FInancial Times Editor Lionel Barber. On the right is Fleishman-Hillard Chairman John Graham. Reuters)

One comment

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I guess print newspapers touch a lot of people, however the next boom which is picking up is information through mobile devices. It helps one to access any amount of news/information on the go. May be TR should be looking at investing in improving the content delivery through mobile devices.

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