The Bloomberg Lesson: How a fledgling news organization got big while others shrank.

Media criticism.
Oct. 5 2006 7:24 PM

The Bloomberg Lesson

How a fledgling news organization got big while others shrank.

(Continued from Page 1)

Daily newspapers didn't see the lucrative news and information opportunity Bloomberg did for the same reason they didn't enter the Web search business when it was green. As mature and graying industries, newspapers are mortified by the creative destruction of changing markets, so they take only tiny and confused steps—mostly backwards. Years after the Web had made newspaper stock tables obsolete, the dailies started to prune and discontinue them, but how many added something of greater value in the form of new columnists or graphs that explained changing markets? Bloomberg's genius, and I don't use that term lightly, was to exploit how deeply people who need information will dig into their pockets to pay for it.

Having stolen the financial presses' lunch by Hoovering every available number into its computers, the Bloomberg machine has targeted the Washington beat. In March of this year, Al Hunt, who heads Bloomberg's Washington bureau, put his press colleagues on notice when he told U.S. News & World Report'sWeb site about additions to his economic team and plans to hire more journalists to cover the Securities and Exchange Commission. As of March, Bloomberg's D.C. bureau employed 120 people. As a point of comparison, that's about three times the size of the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau.

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"Our principal mandate is to cover anything that has money written on it, anything that affects markets," Hunt said. That sounds like Congress, the White House, the courts, and the regulatory agencies. At $1,425 per month, Bloomberg ain't the people's news. But at a time when newspaper readership is declining and newspapers are shriveling, Bloomberg is growing. There's a lesson in that.

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Did I say that Bloomberg pays well but forces its reporters to work harder than mules carrying hods of bricks up ladders? Oh, that sounds like fun to you? Don't send your résumé to me. Track Al Hunt down and pester him. All other inquiries, including those from the famous Bloomberg sales staff, should go to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

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Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.

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