Bloomberg, Washington Post Moves Highlight Business News Challenges
Important Details: Bloomberg and the Washington Post have announced a full-throated partnership, with content moving both ways. The action accompanies the dissolution of the 47-year-old Los Angeles Times – Washington Post (LAT-WP) wire, which was announced the same week, as the Tribune moved L.A. Times stories into its McClatchy Tribune wire partnership. Among the parts of the new alliance:
- The Washington Post News Service with Bloomberg News is a new offering going to market. It will now offer 120 stories a day, pulled from both partners. Its first goal is to retain as many of the current customers of the LAT-WP wire. The Post pegs that customer base at more than 600. Essentially, Bloomberg is replacing the Los Angeles Times’ contribution to the product. It is essentially a new wire service offering, intended mainly for online usage.
- Online, the WashingtonPost.com will offer readers far deeper business content. Last year, the Post merged its online operations into newsroom operations, under the direction of newly appointed editor Marcus Brauchli, who had been managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. Brauchli makes a clear distinction between the Post’s traditional DC-focused business coverage and what Bloomberg will add. “There isn’t a whole lot of depth on our business page right now. We have focused on those areas that are central to our readers,” he told the Post, noting such areas as coverage of regulatory agencies, tax policy, major economic and corporate trends, and local companies. “We don’t do a lot of close corporate coverage beyond our area.” Such coverage, of course, is the bread-and-butter of the 1500+ strong Bloomberg editorial operation. In print, the Post has carried some Bloomberg stories, and will continue do so.
- Bloomberg’s main audience, of course, is found on its more than 200,000 terminals on financial and corporate desktops, a business that’s taken in a big hit in the collapse of financial services firms and by the recession generally. Owing to a drop in revenue, Bloomberg has had to make cuts of its own, including recent ones to its photo operation. With the new Post agreement, it will now include in its rolling package of content a full run of full-text Washington Post stories, which joins New York Times coverage already available through “the Bloomberg.”
Bloomberg’s heightened consumer-oriented profile has also been reinforced by its bid for McGraw Hill’s Business Week, a sale that could be resolved soon.
Meanwhile, as these strategic moves around business news played out, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a report showing that U.S. coverage of the financial coverage tipped heavily to the official news out of Washington D.C. and New York and too often failed to connect with people’s everyday experience of the meltdown and its explanation.
Implications: It’s not surprising that L.A. Times content should finally move into McClatchy Tribune’s wire services. Tribune bought the Times in 2000, and it’s taken nine years — several lifetimes in the fast-changing news business — to put Times news and features in Tribune’s main wire play. Of course, the state of wire services has changed greatly over the decade. Newspapers have greatly cut back their space devoted to news, especially non-local news, and unevenly use wire content for their online products.
Consequently, the alignment of L.A. Times with McClatchy-Tribune makes some sense, though it is unlikely to have much marketplace impact given the condition of the trade.
The Bloomberg/Washington Post move makes sense on the one hand. The Post, which like many dailies eliminated its standalone business section recently, is acknowledging that it needs a big business news partner. In that respect, we see Bloomberg, joined by Dow Jones, Thomson Reuters, the FT and AP all having substantial national/global financial news and data assets. It’s only logical that they find distribution partners in metro and local dailies, and Outsell expects such partnerships to increase. Our report, Publishers Re-Target Local Business News Opportunity, June 23, 2008, cataloged how much daily newspapers had cut back their coverage and how that opened up a range of new opportunities.
On the other hand, the introduction of a new “supplemental” wire is puzzling. Bloomberg’s business news value is clear; the Post’s content, despite its high quality, seems unlikely to extract much pricing from publishers cutting back on content acquisition budgets.
Outsell expects to see further consolidation and cutting back of wires, especially the supplementals, as new lower-cost (often revenue-share-based) content is made available to publishers by such companies as Demand Media, Associated Content and Helium. Indeed, the word “wire” now seems curiously antiquated; we just don’t yet have words to describe newer parts of this new evolving content ecosystem.