OLD Media Moves

Remaking Bloomberg News to provide more than business news

November 5, 2008

Seth Mnookin writes in the December issue of Vanity Fair about Norman Pearlstine, the former head of Time Inc’s magazine operations and The Wall Street Journal, who is now aiming to overhaul Bloomberg News, and Matt Winkler, the editor in chief now taking a step back.

Mnookin writes, “Over the past several years, as big-city dailies, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, have either killed off or dramatically cut the size of their book-review sections, Bloomberg’s arts division has expanded its culture coverage with an eye toward placing more of its content in daily newspapers. One of the country’s metro dailies is looking into outsourcing all of its health reporting to Bloomberg News as a way of meeting corporate-mandated budget cuts without decreasing its coverage areas.

“Finally, after years of what resembled a policy of institutionalized neglect, Bloomberg’s multi-media divisions are being beefed up in a major way. In October, the company hired Andrew Lack, the former president and chief operating officer of NBC, to run Bloomberg’s Internet and radio operations and its 11 television channels, based everywhere from Germany to Japan. Like Pearlstine, Lack had been enormously successful—he transformed NBC News into the country’s highest-rated network news division in the 1990s—and like Pearlstine, he jumped at the chance to join up with an organization that was focused on expanding its reach instead of stanching its losses.

“These ambitious efforts are in part driven by concerns about Bloomberg’s near-complete dependence on its terminals. While subscriptions are up around 8 percent over last year, the economic turmoil roiling the country does not augur well for the immediate future of any company that is so intimately entwined with the world of high finance. (Lehman Brothers alone had more than 3,000 subscribers, although some of those users will presumably end up with new jobs.) But diversifying also carries significant risks. By expanding its mandate, Bloomberg News is deviating from a mission that has proved to be so successful for so long: obsessively and single-mindedly providing content for the company’s core customers. But for the moment at least, it looks as if we’re moving toward a world in which more people will get their information from Bloomberg News than from any other single source.”

Read more here.

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