Bloomberg aims to compete directly with the British press

Bloomberg aims to compete directly with the British press

Bloomberg Media has decided to aggressively court a British audience, the first step in a revamped global strategy for the business news giant.

On Wednesday night, executives unveiled a company they hope could generate $100 million in annual revenue: Bloomberg UK, a brand meant to compete directly with The Financial Times and The Sunday Times, staples of British business journalism.

Bloomberg UK will include a website, a weekly Bloomberg Quicktake video series profiling British newsmakers, a podcast about the City of London and a summit this year on the future of British business.

Bloomberg has been in the UK market for three decades, but the new venture is a targeted approach to an untapped audience of at least seven million in the “professional and affluent space,” said M. Scott Havens, chief executive of Bloomberg Media.

It is the first glimpse of a new international strategy for Bloomberg, which has 176 offices that house its 2,700 journalists and analysts. By creating regional editions in up-and-coming markets where it already has a publishing presence, executives hope to earn new dollars without spending to set up a new headquarters.

Bloomberg UK will draw on the hundreds of journalists already working at the Bloomberg London newsroom, which is housed in a state-of-the-art office building opened five years ago in the financial district. In an interview, Havens and John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, said their new initiative would require hiring dozens of journalists.

The company has in recent months hired BBC presenter Emma Barnett as an interviewer for its Quicktake series; Philip Aldrick, former Times of London economics editor; Olivia Solon, tech investigative reporter for NBC News; and Alex Wickham, editor of Politico’s London Playbook newsletter.

“To some degree, we’re hiding in plain sight,” Micklethwait said. “There are other people trying to get into the UK market, but we already have one of the biggest newsrooms in London here.”

Justin Smith said he would leave Bloomberg Media as CEO four months ago to start Semafor, an online publication aimed at college-educated, English-speaking readers around the world. He teamed up with Ben Smith, a former media columnist for The New York Times, who will serve as Semafor’s editor-in-chief. Micklethwait and Havens said Semafor, which is expected to start publishing this year, had no bearing on the timing of Bloomberg’s global strategy.

“We’re not necessarily keeping an eye on that, but we wish them well of course,” Havens said.

Mr. Micklethwait and Mr. Havens, who became CEO after the resignation of Justin Smith, jointly presented the initiative as part of a broader strategy to Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of Bloomberg LP, in december. He responded enthusiastically, Havens said.

Both executives declined to say how much the company was investing in the effort, but Micklethwait said Havens was spending “vast amounts of money” on journalists, engineering and marketing for Bloomberg UK. Bloomberg Media revenue in 2021 was up 50% from a year earlier, and was up an additional 21% in the first quarter of 2022, Havens said.

Bloomberg Media has nearly 400,000 digital subscribers, four years after installing a paywall on its websites. More than 40 percent of subscribers are outside the United States, with Britain the second-largest market, Havens said.

“At a time when the UK is at risk of following the US down a path to media that is hyper-partisan and highly sensationalist, and suffer the kind of dire consequences that we have seen here in the US,” Bloomberg said. In a statement, “we are expanding our commitment to high-quality, fact-based journalism, with a special focus on business and economic news.”

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