FT or LinkedIn for Bloomberg?

by
LinkedIn

Felix Salmon of Reuters ponders Monday whether acquiring the Financial Times or LinkedIn would be better for Bloomberg.

Salmon writes, “The purchase of the FT would basically be a soft-power move. Bloomberg has a stated aim of becoming ‘the world’s most influential news organization’, and the FT would be a helpful fill-in acquisition on the road to that goal. Bloomberg’s influence started in the financial markets, but the company has become more ambitious than that, so it’s investing other ways of reaching important people who might not have any need or desire to spend $20,000 a year on a Bloomberg terminal. And the investment in news outside the Bloomberg wire is paying off: Bloomberg TV got the first Obama interview after the election, for instance, while Bloomberg Businessweek had that juicy interview with Tim Cook.

“Still, the FT is a news product, which would fit within the broader Bloomberg News operation, and wouldn’t really alter the mission or the economics of the company as a whole. Bloomberg makes its money selling terminals to Wall Street, and it sells those terminals as a one-stop shop for everything you need, from the Lebanese yield curve to the flight schedule between Rio de Janeiro and Santiago de Chile. One of the things that Bloomberg subscribers want is high-quality news, and thus was Bloomberg News born: its first job is always to give the terminal subscribers the news they’re demanding.

“Buying LinkedIn, by contrast, would involve moving far beyond the terminal and into a much bigger world. Bloomberg’s business has — somewhat amazingly — not yet been disrupted by the internet. To the contrary, Bloomberg has been able to piggyback on the bandwidth revolution, and can now sell terminals in Riyadh as easily as it can in London. But there’s a limit to how many people are willing and able to spend $20,000 a year on an information terminal, especially given how much richness of information can be found on the internet for free. And Bloomberg is running up against that limit. Which means that the company is faced with a choice: either continue to reap the spectacular dividends from the existing franchise, or else try and grow, somehow, beyond the confines of the terminal.

“If Bloomberg opts for growth (and there’s no reason why it should, given that it’s not a public company), then it’s easy to see why LinkedIn could be a very smart way of getting there.”

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