Bloomberg Stresses Brand Safety to the First Advertisers for its Twitter News Network

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Michael Bloomberg and Jack Dorsey discuss their deal for a streaming news network on Twitter last May.
Michael Bloomberg and Jack Dorsey discuss their deal for a streaming news network on Twitter last May. Credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Bloomberg's news division for Twitter has signed its first big advertisers as the introduction of its 24/7 streaming channel approaches.

Goldman Sachs, Infiniti, TD Ameritrade and CA Technologies have inked deals to advertise on Bloomberg's forthcoming Twitter-only network, a project announced by the two companies in May. Bloomberg has been looking for sponsors to not only serve ads during breaks but be part of the content that will fill the nonstop news engine.

Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith says the companies have been working closely, engineer to engineer, to develop what he's pitching as a new kind of media. "This is a new global 24-7 breaking news video network, powered by the speed of Twitter but verified by the human journalistic judgment of the Bloomberg newsroom," Smith says.

The verification is a central part of Bloomberg's value proposition, not just to viewers but to advertisers, many of whom are reluctant to jump into the often turbulent waters of Twitter. With the rise of fake news, bot saboteurs and a Twitter-fueled political environment, many brands are wary of inserting themselves into its particular breed of conversation.

"Not all the content on Twitter is immediately understood to be verified," Smith says. "They, like a lot of other social platforms, are facing a lot of challenges with people uploading content that's either not true or misrepresentative or controlled by some machine or algorithm or foreign entity."

As Bloomberg builds the Twitter channel from the floor up it has focused on technology to use Twitter to identify breaking news and verify it. Bloomberg is hiring about 50 people to run the channel, with Mindy Massucci in the editorial lead position.

The programming will mostly come out of New York, London and Hong Kong, Smith says.

Bloomberg declined to discuss financial specifics of the ad deals, but advertiser commitments range between $1.5 million and $2.5 million, according to people familiar with the sales effort.

"The Bloomberg pitch to brands is the ability to enter the news cycle via branded segments and ads," said one agency executive, speaking on condition of anonymity because clients have considered sponsorships on the Twitter channel. "It's basically live TV, in the feed. The question is, should brands be this intimately embedded into the Twitter news cycle with Trump as president, global socio-political unrest and the ability for people to comment in real time? If relevance is your goal, maybe. If brand safety is your goal, probably not. It's an interesting opportunity, but the benefit to brands is unclear."

Not only is Bloomberg betting on its journalistic reliability, it's also working to ensure that the commentary, coming from the Twitter audience, isn't derailed or hijacked. Scott Havens, Bloomberg's global head of digital, said the channel will be operated through a sophisticated dashboard and "super CMS," or content management system.

"The team is busy working on this platform to pull in data from Twitter, tweets, and categorize the videos," Havens says. They are also adding the human element of Bloomberg's editorial team to make sure the right information makes it onto the channel while the bad is filtered out.

The challenge for the social video space is getting viewers to accept advertising, which is why Bloomberg is developing new types of integrations, "better than sponsored content," Havens says, without getting more specific about what they'll look like.

"The data is pretty conclusive on the audience's desire to see advertising and be interrupted: They don't want to be," Havens says. "So we're not going to take a position that we're just going to slot two minutes, four commercials in row, that we do in linear television. We want brand partners to work with us to create value for the audience."

Bloomberg's focus on financial news, for example, opens opportunities for brands like TD Ameritrade.

"We know how critical education and information are to the investing process," said Denise Karkos, CMO TD Ameritrade, in an e-mail statement. "And, in today's fast-paced world, consumers want the latest news at their fingertips, in their format of choice, from a source they trust."

Bloomberg is in talks with at least six more sponsors, according to people familiar the negotiations.

"We believe brands shouldn't have to choose between premium quality content and scale, and partners like Bloomberg give us the ability to offer both," says Matt Derella, VP for Twitter Global Client Solutions, in an email. "Almost three-quarters of people on Twitter turn to our platform for news, particularly young, connected consumers. Through Bloomberg's new network, marketers can be what's happening in a brand safe environment."

Video wars
Twitter faces a challenging digital video environment with rivals like Facebook, Snapchat, Amazon and YouTube also in competition for flagship digital partnerships with big-name media companies. At this year's NewFronts, Twitter announced a BuzzFeed morning show, a homegrown sports channel and other programming alongside the Bloomberg network.

This summer, Facebook introduced Watch, a YouTube-like video hub with launch partners, including Hearst, Condé Nast, The Atlantic and a number of others. Snapchat has been developing original shows with stars like Kendall Jenner.

The platforms split ad revenue with the media partners to encourage more content creation for their networks, and they offer access to new and younger audiences.

According to people familiar with Twitter's digital video proposition, the company offers better terms than Facebook, which gives the video creators 55 percent of the ad revenue.

Twitter has been struggling with ad revenue and user growth, and has bet its future on video. Bloomberg has become a key partner, and starts streaming shows to the platform last year. In January, Bloomberg generated 3.2 million views, and in August that had increased fourfold to 13.5 million.

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