As New Bloomberg Business Site Approaches, Company Eyes Larger Audience
Bloomberg L.P. has spent the last year pouring money and resources into its media arm -- which still labors in the shadow of the terminal business that made Michael Bloomberg a billionaire -- to better attract audiences and advertisers. Now the most visible results of its work are about to emerge, executives said, starting with the roll-out of a digital mother ship called Bloomberg Business -- a website that will live at Bloomberg.com and become Bloomberg Businessweek magazine's new home online.
The site's aim is to both translate the vivid design and storytelling of Businessweek to digital and fill a "conversation gap," according to Josh Topolsky, editor-Bloomberg Digital and chief digital content officer. "Bloomberg News will do a killer breaking news story," Mr. Topolsky said. "Businessweek might do a big feature around that or some pieces of that story. But in between, all week long, there are conversations happening."
"We're trying to take the vibe of Businessweek and take it to a space that's minute-to-minute," he added.
Bloomberg Media would not offer a preview, but Mr. Topolsky said the site will share design DNA with both Businessweek magazine and Bloomberg Politics, the website that rolled out this fall. Politics more closely resembles Businessweek's print edition than the magazine's own current website. It is colorful and bold, with large headlines and images, plus big ad units from BP and Goldman Sachs that fit within the stream of content. Noticeably absent are the web's standard sort of banner ads pushed off to the right.
Previously expected to debut this fall, Bloomberg Business is now likely to arrive in late January, according to advertising executives briefed on the matter. Bloomberg executives declined to say exactly when it would go live.
Whenever it materializes, the site will be the the latest step in Bloomberg L.P.'s effort to improve the fortunes of its media arm, which includes a TV and radio station, digital properties, print magazines and events. The terminal business accounts for the bulk of Bloomberg L.P.'s riches, with annual revenue reportedly totaling $9 billion. Businessweek, meanwhile, lost about $30 million last year. Bloomberg TV reportedly runs deeper in the red.
In addition to the new Bloomberg Business site, Bloomberg TV is getting a revamp that will look to borrow Businessweek's attitude. Josh Tyrangiel, Bloomberg Media's chief content officer, was short on details about the TV network's new look and feel, but identified one tricky goal: Making it cool.
"We've made a couple of very important philosophical decisions of what we want to be and now we're at the pace of filling in the boxes," Mr. Tyrangiel said. "So you are going to turn it on and say, Well that's unexpected."
"The challenge is to make it cool and cool is a very difficult thing to define," he added. "Lots of people have lots of opinions about what is cool. But you know it when you see it."
Spearheading this change is Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith, who reports to Michael Bloomberg, according to a memo Mr. Bloomberg sent to staff this week.
Big names, new ads
In the last year Bloomberg Media has spent heavily on staff -- the company won't say how much -- hiring prominent people in the media world.
Most recently Bloomberg L.P. on Tuesday named Economist Editor John Micklethwait to succeed Matthew Winkler as editor-in-chief of Bloomberg, overseeing edit content across the company.
Bloomberg Media has also recently hired former Time Inc. executive Paul Caine to be global chief revenue officer and former IPG Mediabrands CEO for North America Jacki Kelley to be chief operating officer. Mr. Topolsky came to Bloomberg Media in August from Vox Media's tech and lifestyle website The Verge, where he was co-founder and editor in chief.
"The entire year has been about investment, both from an energy perspective and an intellectual capital perspective," said Mr. Tyrangiel.
The goal of all this investment is to attract a broader audience of "global business influencers" as well as bring on more luxury-minded advertisers.
"Luxury advertisers are a logical play for them," said John Tuchtenhagen, senior VP-media at Digitas. "The struggle, traditionally in the digital space, is the environment itself. That's why it makes sense to do a redesign. It makes sense to create a premium environment -- standard banners aren't going to get you Cartier."
Mr. Caine said in the last few months, Bloomberg Media has attracted "more prestigious advertisers," such as Mercedes, BMW, Cartier and Chanel. "Some were clients before, some weren't, but we're seeing increased investments," he added.
The company has introduced new advertising products. One product called the Pick allows brands to buy an ad next to an article that a Bloomberg TV personality -- such as Bloomberg TV managing editor and anchor Stephanie Ruhle -- will then share with his or her followers on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
It's also using a data and analytics team to pull Bloomberg's reams of information into business intelligence products for advertisers. A report given to all advertising clients, for instance, compares their ad spending and sales with that of their competitors.
Jennifer Morgan, partner-senior director of digital investment at media agency MEC, wasn't familiar with all of Bloomberg's new ad products but commended Bloomberg Media for its recent work. "Bloomberg Media has been putting great custom packages in front of the buying team recently," she said.
Bloomberg Media also restructured its ad sales so that each employee sells across platforms, including TV, print and digital. The switch resulted in both layoffs and new hires. "From an agency perspective, I could not find a media organization that could help me globally execute a story seamlessly and easily," Ms. Kelley said. "This is a brand that can do that."
"The closest to us is what ESPN does for sports," Mr. Caine added. "We're doing that for the business influencer market."
But that might be easier said than done, according to Mr. Tuchtenhagen. The ability to sell TV, print and digital well is rare. Unless you've sold TV, you can't talk to a TV buyer, he said.
And although there are more than 320,000 terminal subscribers, Bloomberg Media doesn't have the large and loyal consumer audience of an ESPN, which attracted 90 million visitors across desktop and mobile in October, according to measurement firm ComScore. Bloomberg Media's combined audience -- which includes Bloomberg.com and Businessweek.com -- was 24 million, a 10% increase over the previous year. That's better than The Wall Street Journal's 22 million and Quartz's 8 million, but short of Business Insider's 35 million.
Bloomberg's largest gains came in digital video, where the company has placed an emphasis recently. In October, desktop video views in the U.S. topped 39 million, a 249% compared with the previous year. CNBC had 20 million desktop views
The challenge becomes attracting an even broader audience, especially when competition for the business influencers' attention is so intense. Beyond the legacy players -- such as the Journal, The Financial Times and CNBC -- there are upstarts like Business Insider and Quartz, as well as social media sites like LinkedIn that allow members to publish blog posts. Facebook has said it wants a part of this audience too.
Mr. Topolsky acknowledged this challenge. "I don't think we've done a great job on the web of exposing" broader audiences to Bloomberg, he said.
"Bloomberg has not been doing everything perfect on the web, at all," he continued. "It was obvious that there was big room for improvement and there needed to be people who just innately and natively understood the language of the web and could come and bring that and could take this stuff to that."
"We have a big audience, but I don't believe we have anywhere near the audience we can have," he said. "That, to me, presents this unbelievable shining opportunity."