That giant gulping sound you heard at the end of the year came when reporters everywhere opened their end-of-year emails from the editor. And no wonder: In 2022, Talking Biz News covered copious layoffs and job cuts by the likes of Gannett, CNN, BuzzFeed, Reach plc, and pretty much any paper owned by the vulture capital firm Alden Capital and its reprobate helmsman Heath Freeman (who spent the equivalent of three reporter starting salaries to buy Christian Laettner’s Duke basketball jersey).
But at Bloomberg Industry Group — which encompasses Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg Tax and Bloomberg Government — it’s been quite the different story. Imagine the adrenaline jolt felt in the newsroom when Editor In Chief Cesca Antonelli sent out a note on Dec. 20 that proclaimed: “As we move into 2023, we will substantially grow the size of our newsroom. You read that right. At a time when it seems like our entire industry is shrinking and doing more with less, Bloomberg Industry Group is making a big bet on robust journalism.”
That’s a more than fantastic story on the business news front. Antonelli has also embraced a return to the logic, once so widely accepted, that stronger newsrooms yield deeper, more exciting stories and collect followers who want to not so much follow the news as stay on top and in front of it.
Call it feisty, call it brave, call it singular — but above all, call Antonelli’s vision for Bloomberg Industry Group a bet on the calculus that quality matters and revenues will follow.
TBN spoke with Antonelli — who somehow found time in the midst of an ultra-busy news calendar — to talk about her plans for taking her end of the Bloomberg editorial operation to the next level, and how that fits into the overall media landscape where newsroom optimism has often been hard to come by.
TBN: Pun intended, for many newsrooms it was a case of “bad news” in 2022. Your letter to the Bloomberg Industry Group team was so upbeat and forcefully positive. What’s behind that?
Cesca Antonelli: It has been a rough couple years for the industry and all of us working in it. It’s great to be able to invest in our newsroom at a time when everything seems so precarious and everyone else is looking around and trying to figure out what to cut. We have added new products and newsletters, built out new beats – and it is paying off because we’ve been winning a number of big customers. This is an exciting moment for us.
TBN: At a time when so many organizations have curtailed their reporting, or try to do more with less, Bloomberg Industry Group is making what you call “a big bet on robust journalism.” Recap for us some of the ways you’ll do that.
Antonelli: The plan is to build out our legal news coverage. It’s a sector with a lot of promise. We are going to be adding reporters in a lot of places where we do not currently have coverage or where we don’t have as much coverage as our clients need. These are things like M&A and antitrust law, or securities litigation. We’re putting more reporters in circuit courts and state supreme courts. These beats lend themselves well to both this-just-in breaking news and deeper, more nuanced enterprise stories that tell people what’s at stake and what’s next. So you can expect to see us do a lot of both, and to pair that reporting with great exclusive data, graphics, podcasts and videos.
TBN: There’s a lot of partisan so-called journalism (or brazen op-ed disguised as journalism) geared on winning a loyal “fan base.” Still other outlets have succumbed to games of click bait. Others, like BuzzFeed, are trying to have it both ways with investigative articles and juvenile, tacky listicles. Why are you sticking to the traditional path? How do you approach winning an audience?
Antonelli: I love some of those listicles as much as anyone else. I’ll admit it. But we’re in the business of writing serious news for serious times. And we have to be non-partisan both because we think it is the right thing to do and also because our customers pay us serious money for news. They’re using our products to do their jobs. We have to be indispensable to them. It’s not enough to write things that they love when they have some time for something fun. It’s not enough to write things that just reinforce the point of view they already have in their mind. We have to write things that they can’t live without. We have to expand their knowledge base. We have to help them understand other points of view.
TBN: From a business standpoint, how is Bloomberg Industry Group pursuing goals that will fund the ambitious goals you’re setting?
Antonelli: Bloomberg Law is a legal news and research platform. We pair our news with best-in-class tech that helps lawyers track dockets that matter to them, find new business and research cases they need to win or judges that they’re arguing in front of. We have cool new AI that helps them write a good brief and templates they can use to get their work done faster. So news is really the gateway into this deeper platform and technology. We’re fortunate right now. The Bloomberg Law platform has really caught on. We’re winning a number of new clients and growing our user base in existing clients. The investment we are making in news is going to help accelerate the growth in our revenue over the long term.
TBN: In your letter, you mention Bloomberg Industry Group CEO Josh Eastright’s ambition as shared this summer to double revenue in the next few years. How is the climb to that goal going?
Antonelli: It’s going really well. We serve three main markets: legal, tax and government. Each of our businesses is growing at a good clip. Our presence is building in each market. We’re getting more attention and we’re constantly improving our platforms. We’ve built a team that works really well together, where our product designers and engineers and sales staff are coming together to create products that make our customers smarter. I’m a pretty competitive person. I love having an ambitious goal out there. We have a team now that is just going to crush it.
TBN: You’ve said that into 2023, Bloomberg Industry Group will substantially grow the size of its newsroom but also you’re going to be targeted and deliberate in hiring: “Don’t expect all our teams to get bigger tomorrow.” What’s the key to balancing those two ends?
Antonelli: Focus is vital. It’s hard, too. We employ a lot of smart people, so people are pitching a lot of good ideas. Fascinating things. I would love to be able to try all of them. But when we do a lot of small things, it doesn’t have as much impact as when we put a lot of effort into just a few big things. Sometimes we have to be ruthless about saying “no” to cool things. We are going to make a big play in litigation news now. Hopefully we win a lot of customers. And then we can expand into some of these other ideas next as our first bets pay off.
TBN: One goal you have is to become make Bloomberg Law No. 1 in litigation news. Why is that important to you?
Antonelli: The fastest-growing part of our business is with the biggest law firms in America. These firms have booming litigation practices, and the lawyers who work in this area have a lot of needs. Speed matters. Partners want to be the first to phone their own clients or to give their own takes on social media and build their brands. Our news helps them do that. We provide a lot of analysis and trend stories as news develops over time. Our expertise helps our clients see around corners and get a sense of what is coming next that they need to think about in coming days or weeks.
TBN: If people are interested in joining the Bloomberg Industry Group team, what should they have going for them? What steps would you recommend?
Antonelli: We are looking for people who love scoops. It doesn’t matter what your current beat is. If you have a track record of getting news before your competition, let’s talk. Folks can email me or reach out on social.