Nick Summers of Newsweek writes about the aggressive expansion plans at Bloomberg News.
Summers writes, “As most of the news industry withers, Bloomberg is booming. Terminal money, which accounts for 80 percent of revenue, has helped the company hire more reporters and editors than anyone else on the planet—more than 2,700 of them—over the last 20 years, from Abuja, Nigeria, to Zagreb, Croatia. More recently it has launched powerful new tools for lobbyists, lawmakers, and other power brokers. Long averse to acquisitions, Bloomberg has also started buying up things it covets, like Businessweek magazine and, just this August, the legal-political research behemoth BNA. There is talk that the Financial Times might be its next meal.
“All of which means that by the time Michael Bloomberg, 88 percent owner of Bloomberg L.P., leaves New York’s City Hall two years from now, he will have his name stamped on some instruments of surprisingly deep influence.
“But this isn’t just another story about a company beating the odds and growing in a down economy. Bloomberg the company is not all that well known beyond Wall Street; its expansion has managed to be both subtle and seismic, and could fundamentally alter not just the kind of news Americans get but the events in the news themselves. While one guiding principle of traditional journalism is to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’ Bloomberg has made its money comforting the comfortable—plying high-spending traders and other business insiders with all the data they need to do their jobs with confidence.
“Now it’s taking that formula to Washington. When Bloomberg bought BNA for $990 million in August, most Americans had never heard of the Bureau of National Affairs or its 350 newsletters on topics like tax, health care, and labor. It doesn’t produce popular scoops—instead it churns out nuts-and-bolts information on things like an appeals-court judge’s ruling on a patent dispute; when the House Appropriations Committee will mark up an EPA funding bill; and how telecom giants will benefit from a moratorium on wireless taxes. Which means every lawyer, lobbyist, and law-maker in the capital depends on BNA’s proprietary data to do his or her job and gain an edge over competitors. From that angle, BNA is just the kind of company that Bloomberg— already a powerhouse among business insiders—could use to extend its power into new markets, in this case the ‘influencing community’ inside the Beltway.”
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