Bloomberg’s Future Is the Future of News for Everyone
Bloomberg News is going through some big changes.
The company laid off dozens of journalists yesterday. And in a leaked internal memo, the business news behemoth outlined how it will be reorganizing in an effort to both capitalize on its strengths and further adapt to the continually changing media landscape.
“This is not about downsizing; it is about refocusing our considerable resources,” editor-in-chief John Micklethwait wrote in the memo. “Our purpose is to be the definitive ‘chronicle of capitalism’—to capture everything that matters in global business and finance.”
The lengthy memo goes on to describe how the editorial and research arms of the company, to which founder Michael Bloomberg notably returned in September of last year, plan to refocus. Micklethwait says the company will stick with reporting on its key areas of interest—business, finance, markets, economics, technology, and power (namely, government and politics)—while staying ever mindful of its core audience (“the clever customer who is short of time”).
In essence, Bloomberg will follow what seems like the paradoxical imperatives for any media company, especially those that aren’t flush with venture capital cash: become more niche but also more global; and get leaner while also spreading to as many platforms as possible.
The Broad Niche
In reorganizing, Bloomberg will eschew general interest reporting on topics like sports and education in favor of a stricter focus on business and markets. To stay competitive, Bloomberg seems to feel it must resist the broad industry trend of homogenization in favor of becoming more like itself—the essential source, especially for paying Bloomberg terminal users, for business, markets, and financial news.
This isn’t so different from The New York Times‘ recent efforts to remind its audience of its signature investigative reporting in recent months via news alerts highlighting its biggest stories. Bloomberg bearing down on business is also somewhat like BuzzFeed expanding its video offerings. By focusing on its strengths, all three hope to differentiate to reach the broadest possible audience.
Micklethwait‘s call to remember who Bloomberg News’ audience is—the kind of people for whom, quite literally, time is money—also doesn’t sound all that different from BuzzFeed honing in on young people and then reaching them where they want to be reached, like, say, Snapchat, or from The New York Times using its NYT Now app to offer daily digests of the news of record that readers look to the Times to provide.
Like the Times, BuzzFeed, and, well, pretty much everyone, Bloomberg wants to be everywhere. “Vibrant journalism, whether it is on the terminal, the web, print, radio or television, needs a core—an area where we excel, partly because we believe in it and understand it better than our competitors do,” Micklethwait says.
That sounds a whole lot like BuzzFeed and Business Insider, for example, which are embracing a more distributed model. Readers may find their stories on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, which is not that surprising, except that these social channels are starting to take precedence over the traditional homepage.
“Most people in a trading room reach Bloomberg stories through alerts, rather than through TOP [the terminal’s list of top news stories], so we need to tag our stories correctly,” Micklethwait says. “On the web, almost 70 percent of our visitors now come directly to article pages through social media or search engines, rather than the homepage.”
By distributing news on Twitter, in push alerts, or on Facebook, media organizations are increasingly putting news not only where readers are but in the process also reformulating the news such that it best encapsulates what readers might be looking for on that platform.
All the Capitalism
In reorganizing Bloomberg not just as an editorial product but a company, Micklethwait wants to be leaner with as little organizational overlap as possible. At the same time, he understandably believes Bloomberg needs to expand into new markets.
“Bloomberg is still too focused on developed markets, established finance and the Western world (especially America),” he writes. “By contrast capitalism is moving to private markets and the emerging world. To chronicle it, we must follow it. Such international expansion is something other media and content companies, from BuzzFeed to Netflix, are looking to do, too.
But of course, for news, heading overseas doesn’t just mean a website in a new language. It means reporters on the ground who understand the places they’re covering. Ultimately, the challenge for any news organization in the Internet age is that journalism doesn’t scale the way a purely digital product does. Code can travel the world with a click; but news, at least for now, still needs people.