Apocalypse 31: What’s in a Name?

Posted: October 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Journalism | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Not much, I hope. Since a favorite publication–BusinessWeek–is about to add “Bloomberg” to its title page. Bloomberg BusinessWeek (BBW for short!) doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

That said, Bloomberg buying BusinessWeek is about the best thing that could have happened, given that the alternatives all involved some kind of private equity entity, and as I’ve previously articulated, those kinds of mergers are bad news. Still, there are reasons to worry, because there’s a lot of uncertainty about HOW Bloomberg plans to use BusinessWeek.

Bloomberg could take two approaches:

It could take BW and use it to deliver content to its core subscribers that Bloomberg’s terminals don’t already provide, namely, broad, analytical stories about topics like workplace culture, economic policy and management strategy, at which BW excels. This would allow Bloomberg to merge BW directly into its current business and basically avoid running it as its own entity. This has some value, but not much, since those subscribers either already get that news elsewhere or don’t need it at all–they’re mostly traders and the kind of news they need (real time, raw information) Bloomberg’s own wire service already provides.

The alternative strategy is for Bloomberg to bring its corporate values and assets into a new market and target a new audience–the mid-level corporate citizens BW already speaks to. Bloomberg could use its vast store of real time data to flesh out BW’s reporting. Moreover, Bloomberg’s corporate value system (a willingness to invest a LOT of money for luxury quality product instead of cost-cutting its way to profit) has allowed it to fund a vast network of international bureaus when just about everyone else in media is cutting back on its global presence. BW has tried to do the same, by funneling money into expensive things like an investigative unit and funding a pretty solid international setup of its own.

Moreover, as BW’s own Steve Baker points out, a strategy of continuing to develop and grow BW as its own entity would actually create a whole new business for Bloomberg: It might allow them to sell a discounted version of their data service over the web. BW’s website is about the best place of any print publication’s web presence to try this–it has a more lively, more social-media-esque comment space than any of its competitors, and has writers who actually get into the comments and respond to their readers, on both blog posts and ordinary articles.

Baker worries that Bloomberg won’t take this latter, better route. James Ledbetter (who edits Slate’s biz site) believes that Bloomberg PLANS to takes this route–to get deep into the web–and that’s why they paid for BW in the first place.

Here’s hoping Ledbetter is right.

One Comment on “Apocalypse 31: What’s in a Name?”

  1. 1 rafigagum said at 10:36 am on October 17th, 2009:

    a lot is in a name; bloomberg is turning into the next berlusconi

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