BLOOMBERG PLAYS RHYTHMS OF FINANCE; NEWS SERVICE LOOKS FOR MORE MEDIA TO GROW INTO

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Wall Street brokers have developed an unusual habit for announcing successful deals. They go to their computer terminals, press a button and call up the junglelike rhythms of a beating drum soundtrack.

The soundtrack is from an unusual multimedia ad for AM General Corp.'s Hummer, the decommissioned military vehicle that helped the allies win the Persian Gulf War.

The terminals the brokers retrieve the Hummer ads from are part of Michael Bloomberg's multimedia empire that began in 1981 as a financial data service. Since then, Bloomberg has mushroomed into national TV, radio, magazine and newspaper business news services rivaling the likes of Dow Jones & Co. and Reuters.

The terminals are the market, one top bond trader said of his Bloom-berg terminal. "I use it to trade. I use it to trade with Tokyo. I use it to trade with London. I use it to trade with my clients. It's got Internet access on it, so I use it to communicate with my clients. It's not just a financial data service, it's the highway that this country conducts its financial business with."

Such loyalty must be comforting to Mr. Bloomberg, who charges $1,200 per month per terminal. The revenues are the bulk of the empire the 53-year-old former Wall Streeter estimates at $3 billion.

The backbone of that business is an editorial operation of 350 reporters and editors recruited from some of the most prestigious business news operations in the world. They file a continuous stream of business news to accompany the flow of financial data available around the clock.

"Everybody talks about multimedia," Mr. Bloomberg said. "But we're doing it."

Indeed, the Bloomberg terminals can pull up conventional text, pictures and sound, or an interview with a top CEO. Most such multimedia stories are provided via a static video medium that offers real-time sound, but stationary video frames.

Bloomberg also has begun incorporating full-motion videos into the terminals. For those subscribes who choose to connect their terminals to a satellite dish, they can automatically receive Bloomberg Direct, a direct broadcast satellite news service carried on DirecTV.

Mr. Bloomberg doesn't consider this true video-on-demand, which he believes is still a few years away. But he nonetheless claims to be producing one of the only true information-on-demand multimedia products available on a large-scale basis.

Ads are not sold specifically on the Bloomberg terminals, but are usually offered as part of a package with one of the other Bloomberg products. They include a 90-minute daily national morning TV news show carried on USA Network; Bloomberg Direct; Bloomberg Radio; Bloomberg Information Television on public TV stations and in inserts on the Fox-owned TV stations; the 100,000-circulation Bloomberg monthly; and Bloomberg Personal, a Sunday magazine reaching 5.5 million newspaper readers each month.

Advertiser range from financial services and brokerages to upscale car marketers like Nissan Motor Corp. USA's Infiniti division, Jaguar Cars and Hummer.

"Bloomberg offers a financial business news environment in virtually every medium. You can have a 30-second commercial on USA Network, 60-second radio commercial on Bloomberg Radio and a print message reaching 12 million readers. On Bloomberg, you have a complete multimedia advertisement," said Beverly Westle, Bloomberg TV product manager.

She said the mediums are sold distinctly or as part of multimedia packages, all offering messages on the 50,000 Bloomberg terminals, estimated to have 3.5 users each.

The consumer media expansion, with a new media product virtually every six months for the past couple of years, is part of a move to extend Bloomberg's brand of financial news.

Toward that end, Bloomberg has struck "affiliation" agreements with 200 major newspapers, which essentially get free access to the terminals in exchange for promoting Bloomberg in a regular financial news feature or column. Bloomberg's team of financial news analysts in Princeton, N.J., even customizes local stock indices for each paper.

The efforts are not altruistic, but part of a careful plan to make Bloomberg the definitive brand name for financial news and data.

Bloomberg already has supplanted Dow Jones as the source of financial data for such illustrious dailies as The New York Times.

But Mr. Bloomberg thinks his David-like organization still has a way to go before toppling the Goliaths.

"The other guys have been doing it for 125 years," he said. "We have 350 reporters. Reuters has double that number."

More than Dow Jones, Mr. Bloomberg said, "Reuters is the major competition." And he scoffs at attempts by others, including NBC and CNN, to move into the desktop business news computer field.

"They're not a factor," he said.

As for the future, Mr. Bloomberg said he will launch a satellite TV service in Europe in September and then will set his sites on a similar venture in Asia.

Within the next few years, he plans to expand to a 24-hour cable network in the U.S. As soon as the technology is feasible, he will convert the Bloomberg terminals to full-motion video-on-demand.

"If you ask me what kind of consumer products we will have in the future, I don't know," said Mr. Bloomberg. "But our goal is to become a major consumer brand. Among professionals in the securities industry our brand name is known. Among the general public that cares about business news, we have a way to go."

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CORPORATE CLOSE-UP

Headquarters: New York

Leadership: Michael Bloomberg, founder, CEO and principal owner.

Estimated 1995 worldwide sales: $650 million

Agencies: No agency of record; Serino, Coyne handled a $5 million New York market radio campaign.

Recent successes: Established a foothold as a financial news brand rivaling Dow Jones & Co. and Reuters. Extended that brand from the Bloomberg terminals into a wide variety of ancillary media, including radio, magazines, newspapers, and public, satellite and cable TV. Has begun incorporating full-motion video, including advertising, into Bloomberg terminals, and is close to deploying full-motion video-on-demand.

Challenges for 1995 and beyond: Capitalizing on Bloomberg's newfound consumer reach to transform what is essentially a well-regarded but strictly business-to-business securities industry brand name into broader consumer awareness. Fending off encroachment from new players, like NBC Desktop News.

Source: Advertising Age and company reports

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