OLD Media Moves

Bloomberg for sale?

October 26, 2005

The rumors that business data information and news wire service company Bloomberg LP is for sale are circulating again. There was a story in the British newspaper The Independent today. In addition, the Wall Street Journal has also written a speculative story about the potential for the company to be sold. Both stories give a ballpark figure of $12 billion or more.

These rumors are nothing new. I worked at Bloomberg from 1997 to 1999, and there were persistent rumors as far back as then that Mike Bloomberg, who is now the New York mayor, wanted to sell his stake in the company and do something else. In recent years, I have often heard from my former colleagues still at the company of persistent rumors. One which has continued to gain traction is that the company would be sold to Microsoft, but at the SABEW convention earlier this year, Bill Gates seemed to downplay any interest in content.

What would happen to the thousand-plus journalists who work at Bloomberg would be interesting if a sale did go through. If Bloomberg was sold to Dow Jones or Reuters, then a lot of those reporters and editors would be duplicative to the reporters and editors already working at those competing wires.

In addition, it’s widely perceived within Bloomberg that the data service that comes in the Bloomberg machine has been funding the journalism operations for years, and that the company gets only a small amount of revenue from its editorial content. The Bloomberg stories, frankly, are used to get the company’s high-paying customers interested in what else the box on their desk can tell them.

I’m a big fan of the concept of Bloomberg and the detailed and well-reported stories that it puts out. I also like the fact that Bloomberg in recent years has been involved in training for business journalists through the Society of Professional Journalists and through putting its terminals into select journalism schools across the country, including Cal-Berkeley, Northwestern, Columbia, Ohio and UNC-Chapel Hill. By exposing journalism students to the Bloomberg terminal at these formative years, they’re creating some interest in business journalism, which is a good thing.

However, it’s an intense place to work, and there has been a lot of burnout among the staff. It’s an editor-driven culture, and that rubs some of the reporters the wrong way at times. There has been a movement by the New York Newspaper Guild to unionize the newsroom there, and you can read some of the comments from current and former workers here.

Still, Bloomberg does pay well, and there are lots of nice perks, like the free food and drinks and the office amenities. And I think it’s a good training ground for young reporters to learn a lot about business reporting in a short amount of time.

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