‘Game change’ for Bloomberg?
As part of a developing digital strategy, Bloomberg L.P. has talked to the prominent political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin about launching a new politics offering, sources tell Capital.
Justin B. Smith, who was named C.E.O. of Bloomberg Media Group last fall after a long stint at Atlantic Media, recently concluded a review of the company's consumer media division and has said that he wants to build out "a portfolio of new digital assets" that attracts audiences beyond the subscribers who pay hefty fees for Bloomberg's financial information and news-service terminals.
Sources said that independent channels focused on politics and business are two such initiatives, and that Bloomberg Business is one of the names being considered for the latter product.
As for the former, it's unclear whether Heilemann, who presently writes for New York magazine, or Halperin, who works at Time, are interested in pursuing a potential politics play at Bloomberg. But sources said that the possibility has become a topic of conversation in Bloomberg's Washington offices.
Heilemann and Halperin, who co-authored the political blockbusters Game Change and Double Down, did not respond to several emails. A spokesman for Bloomberg Media Group declined to comment.
Smith was known for encouraging digital growth in his previous role as president of Atlantic Media, which spawned an array of buzzy web properties under his watch. A similar approach is expected to unfold at Bloomberg Media Group, where the publishing portfolio includes bloomberg.com, Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg View and the print magazines Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg Markets and Bloomberg Pursuits.
Last week, Smith took a significant step with the hiring of AOL Live president Nathan Richardson and Inside.com chief content officer Gabriel Snyder, who previously worked under Smith as editor of The Atlantic Wire. As his lieutenants, they will be charged with "figuring out how to take the work of more than 2,400 journalists in more than 150 bureaus on innovative platforms for new readers," as Mashable put it in an article breaking the news.
Smith does not oversee the wire service Bloomberg News, the content of which is primarily distributed on the company's profit-making terminals. But Bloomberg News journalism appears on bloomberg.com.
Insiders described a tension between Smith's consumer-media strategy and the core newsroom, the main function of which is to provide high-speed journalism to financial traders.
For instance, members of the Washington bureau, already a bit unmoored due to the prolonged absence of an executive editor or permanent bureau chief, are wondering what an independent politics site would mean for them since it would presumably be a separate entity produced under the aegis of the New York-based Bloomberg Media Group.
Similarly, a business site would "help us go bolder and deeper, signaling to consumers outside of finance that Bloomberg has the media products for them," as Smith wrote in a March 19 strategy memo. He reiterated as much during a recent town hall for the media group, where he explained that Bloomberg needs to be more influential in the general business world in addition to its heft within the Wall Street community, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
It seems to be an effort to complement rather than replace Bloomberg Businessweek, which is seen as a success story in terms of its quality and impact in print but hasn't really nailed down a digital strategy of its own (or ceased to lose money, for that matter) since Bloomberg L.P. acquired the title in 2009.