Talking with Thomson Reuters chief about print
Covering Thomson Reuters Corp for almost two years has taught me that people like to cast my company in a recurring role in media deal parlor games. Now that the company’s arch-rival Bloomberg LP will buy BusinessWeek magazine from McGraw-Hill, lots of my pals in the media world are wondering: Will Thomson Reuters buy a mainstream news or business news magazine? Or newspaper? Why not Forbes? Why not the Financial Times?
Keep in mind that Thomson Reuters likes to remind people when they ask these questions that Thomson Corp, before buying Reuters, got out of its Canadian newspaper empire for a reason. (See below)
I asked our chief executive, Tom Glocer, a question along these lines on a Thursday phone call he had with reporters to discuss the company’s third-quarter financial results.
Here is what he said:
Thomson did a remarkable job, far earlier than any other company I know, of seeing what was coming and transitioning their business out of print for the most part… I don’t see any particular time or reason at this juncture why we should go the other way.
Later on Thursday, when I interviewed Glocer, we returned to this theme. (I can’t help it, I’m a print guy.) I used the Financial Times, owned by Pearson Plc and beloved of its CEO, Dame Marjorie Scardino, as a sample target:
Here is Glocer’s reply:
When I came to London, Marjorie was famous for saying she would never sell the FT, or it would go “over my dead body.” There were many years in which the FT had fallen on harder times when people held that up as well: Marjorie has to go before the FT.
That sounds like a “no” on the FT. What about other properties?
Is it impossible that somewhere in the world that we’d take a print property and move it electronic? No, but we’re not looking to go out and buy consumer print publications. That’s not what we think our business is.
That sounds like a “no” on print. At that point, Chief Financial Officer Bob Daleo took over, saying that Thomson Reuters is a company where “what we shy away from are advertising-based models. We charge for content, we charge for information and news.”
What about Reuters.com, an ad-supported site that runs our news? Glocer said:
I would argue that the overwhelming amount of our news is behind the firewall in the sense that you only get it as part of a product that you pay for. It’s great that we have it. I’m very proud of reuters.com. I use it on weekends and evenings when I’m not in front of my bigger service, my subscription service.
I asked one more question on print: Why did Thomson Reuters get involved in any way at all with ZelnickMedia’s losing bid for BusinessWeek? What was that about?
We had no ownership interest or economics in the deal… We have done very similar things already. I would point you to the deal with the International Herald Tribune where Reuters supplies a couple pages’ worth of business news. So the way I’d think of it is, we have a news agency providing television, text, photos, etc…. There is no particular magic about BusinessWeek. We stand ready to do sensible, commercial deals to help deliver value to media customers, and it’s not a sort of, ‘Well the TR play is BusinessWeek.’ It never was. For a while it got reported like that because it was amusing to people.”
And that’s the last word on print…today.