Stories by Chris Roush
by Chris Roush
Greg Bartalos is the editor in chief of Barrons.com, the online site for the weekly business newspaper.
He rejoined Barron’s as editor of Barrons.com in early 2009, following his most recent role as assistant managing editor of Yahoo! Finance, a position he held since 2006. He previously served as senior editor of Barrons.com. In his role, Bartalos oversees editorial content for the site, as well as online community-building initiatives and Barrons.com’s relationships with other sites.
He joined Yahoo! Finance in 2005 after serving as senior editor of Barrons.com for four years. Previously, Bartalos served as managing editor and an editorial consultant for Individual Investor Online from 1998-2001. He was also a reporter for Bloomberg News and Institutional Investor. Bartalos began his career at Competitive Media Reporting as an audio editor.
Bartalos graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
Bartalos spoke earlier this week by email with Talking Biz News about the Barrons.com operation. What follows is an edited transcript.
What is the daily coverage philosophy of Barrons.com?
We try to report on and interpret key news events while emphasizing ways in which readers can profit or at least not lose money. While the daily news cycle drives our coverage, the past informs what we do and the future is our focus. In that context, analysis remains paramount. We regularly write about securities we deem undervalued regardless of whether they are making news. Ultimately, our readers are in search of value, and our job is to find it for them. Barrons.com, which is ramping up video efforts, also provides advice on how to navigate the world of wealth management via its Penta section, which caters to families with assets of $5 million or more.
We offer a wide array of stories, including in-depth interviews with money managers and longer more analytical pieces, complemented by shorter items, often found on our blogs. Including blog posts, Barrons.com publishes roughly 1,000 stories per month on weekdays.
Who do you see as your competitors for markets news?
Many sites cover markets news and provide timely analysis but I wouldn’t single out any. We think we have sufficiently differentiated ourselves with our high-quality editorial offerings that focus on providing actionable ideas to investors. As such, we are not a news site per se. And while most of our competitors are free, we fortunately have been successfully charging for many years.
How do you decide what content is for subscribers, and what content is free?
It’s pretty straightforward. Our daily analysis is generally behind a pay wall. However, our videos, which editor Jack Otter is very effectively building out, are free as are our blogs: Tech Trader Daily (Tiernan Ray), Focus on Funds (Brendan Conway), Emerging Markets (Ben Levisohn), Income Investing (Michael Aneiro), Penta (Richard Morais) and Stocks to Watch. Our magazine content, published every Saturday morning, is for the most part behind the pay wall. But we do experiment with selectively making content free.
The site recently added a portfolio tracker. What was the reasoning?
The new portfolio is a larger Dow Jones initiative designed to encourage frequent usage. The service, provided by LikeAssets, allows readers to automatically and securely sync all their portfolios from more than 40 brokerage firms. The portfolio, which integrates Barron’s analysis and news from The Wall Street Journal, also includes breakdowns of asset allocation and visually alluring performance graphs. Readers can also track investments based on institution, beneficiary or goals.
Tell me about the new feature that analyzes markets coverage from other media.
Helmed by executive editor John Kimelman, Read This, Spike That was created early this year to help investors navigate an ever more cluttered media landscape. It’s easy to see why many feel overwhelmed by the abundance of investing advice hitting them. That’s why in John’s column he discusses the relative merit of a few stories each day, rating them on a one- to five-star basis. Ultimately, in a media-drenched environment, any guidance that can help readers navigate a complex and fast-moving market serves a useful purpose.
Does any of Barron’s content come from your sisters at The Wall Street Journal or Marketwatch?
No. Our stories are created in-house but of course we link to them and vice versa.
Who is the typical Barrons.com reader?
We have a very sophisticated and high net worth readership, composed of individual and professional investors. Average household net worth is north of $2.5 million. And the average reader makes 60 securities transactions per year. Our readers are very loyal, spending over two hours each week reading Barrons.com, with more than half that time devoted to weekday content. Time after time, I have heard readers recount how they grew up watching their fathers read Barron’s on Saturday mornings. Then they fell into the habit and found it a hard one to shake!
When you rejoined Barron’s in 2009, the site had 150,000 subscribers. Where do you stand now?
We are at about 170,000 paid subscribers. Overall, though, from a business standpoint, our focus has been on increasing overall circulation revenue. We have raised subscription prices several times in the past few years and the maximum price for a digital subscription is now $199/year (on par with print Barron’s), up from $99/year in 2009.
And monthly visitors were at 2 million in 2009. Where are you at now?
We are comfortably above that. However, as mentioned above, our focus has been on growing profits — not chasing traffic for traffic’s sake.
What do you attribute that growth to?
Hopefully, the quality of our work is resonating with readers. Efforts on Facebook and Twitter are helping too. We also have expanded into mobile with an iPad app that’s proven popular along with, more recently, an iPhone app that features daily content.
What do you see as the top features of the site that attract most readers?
Randall Forsyth’s Up and Down Wall Street Daily is a big draw as is Tiernan Ray’s tech coverage. Also, Steve Sears’s options column and Michael Kahn’s technical analysis enjoy loyal followings. Jack Hough draws many readers as does David Englander who specializes in “off the radar” stocks. Barron’s Take, which analyzes companies making news, is written by Teresa Rivas, Johanna Bennett and Dimitra DeFotis. They also write the longstanding Weekday Trader feature, which highlights attractive investments.
Wall Street’s Best Minds, which showcases commentary from leading thinkers, has done very well since its January launch. And Investors’ Soapbox, a perennial draw that highlights third-party big-picture analysis, is overseen by managing editor Ed Lin. Inside Scoop, by Grace Williams, has a dedicated following, too. Finally, Richard Morais, with his witty and insightful writing for Penta, covers wealth management, philanthropy, real estate, art, food, culture and more with aplomb.
When you came back from Yahoo! Finance, was there anything that you learned there that you applied at Barron’s?
Yahoo! Finance was different in some fundamental ways. Free versus paid. Massive audience versus a relatively smaller one, etc. But Yahoo reinforced in me the importance of being nimble and timely when programming online content. When I returned to Barrons.com, I wanted to keep the analytical component of the site front and center while giving much more prominence to the daily news cycle. Barron’s Take, which we launched in 2009, is the poster child for that synthesis.
What’s your favorite Alan Abelson story?
I would suggest looking at the stories shared by Alan’s colleagues in a series of recent remembrances that appeared on Barrons.com. Words can’t fully describe how eloquent, witty and fearless Alan was. His impact on colleagues, friends and readers has been staggering. A true giant, Alan is greatly missed.
by Chris Roush
Stanley Cohen, the longtime Washington editor of Advertising Age, died earlier this month at the age of 93.
A story on the National Press Club website states, “An elevator ride away from the Club was Cohen’s Advertising Age office, where he was the Washington editor from 1943-1984. He retired as a corporate vice president of Crain Communications, the publisher of Advertising Age, in 1987.
“At Cohen’s Washington funeral, Rance Crain, the editor-in-chief of Advertising Age, praised Cohen for courageously advocating for truth in advertising. He said it influenced Crain’s attitude towards business journalism.
“Known as the dean of consumer journalism for his award-winning coverage of excessive or false advertising claims, Cohen’s articles and editorial columns resulted in the creation of an advertising-industry-sponsored review panel that self-regulated commercials, said Rick Gordon, who worked with Cohen for 10 years.
“‘Stan taught me lessons about thoroughness, about integrity, about perseverance and what high standards in journalism really are,’ Gordon said.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Bloomberg L.P. Thursday unveiled a new chat service for foreign-exchange traders across various banks, developed in collaboration with Citigroup, reports William Launder of The Wall Street Journal.
Launder writes, “The product is part of a broader effort by banks to take direct control of employee-communications services, at a time when the security of chat platforms has been called into question and the financial industry is looking to reduce its technology costs.
“The chat service, called IB Dealing, allows users to negotiate, make and report trades on a centralized platform. Foreign-exchange traders at more than 100 banks already have been testing the service. Thursday’s announcement represents its formal unveiling.
“Citi worked with Bloomberg to develop the product, which aims to cut operating costs by making banks less dependent on multiple outside communication services.
“The unveiling comes just a week after The Wall Street Journal reported that Citi was moving more of its internal group-chat functions away from Bloomberg to a proprietary internal-messaging service called CitiFXWire.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Caleb Solomon will join Bloomberg News as an editor at large for Top News, beginning Monday, June 17, editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler announced Thursday.
Solomon joins Bloomberg News from The Boston Globe, where he has served as managing editor/digital since March 2013. Previously, Solomon was The Globe’s managing editor, where he acted as the newsroom’s chief operating officer and led the team that redesigned the paper. He also headed the organization’s video efforts and helped create BostonGlobe.com. He came to The Globe in 2003 as business editor and became deputy managing editor in 2007.
Solomon began his career at The Wall Street Journal and held several roles with the publication, including stints in New York, Houston, Boston and Brussels.
Solomon spent nearly two years in Brussels for The Wall Street Journal Europe, first as the networking editor overseeing a section devoted to technology, media, marketing and management. He was named page one editor and assistant managing editor of the Journal Europe in November 2001.
Prior to that, Solomon spent almost four years as editor of The Wall Street Journal/New England, a weekly section he launched devoted to breaking regional news. He previously headed Texas Journal, the regional section in Texas for The Wall Street Journal.
Solomon served for eight years as a Journal reporter in Houston, concentrating on the oil industry. Before that, he was a copy editor for The Journal in New York. For several years he also wrote radio and TV copy for various broadcast services of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Journal. He earned his master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
He will report to Bloomberg News executive editor Marty Schenker.
by Chris Roush
Laura Shin of SmartPlanet.com writes about how business news will fit into BuzzFeed’s operation.
Shin writes, “Section editor, Peter Lauria, who was hired from Reuters and spent five years at the New York Post leading media, tech and entertainment coverage, says, ‘Nobody is saying that BuzzFeed is going to replace The Wall Street Journal as an investor’s first business read of the day.’ But he does think that bringing business personalities or data to life in fun ways will attract the LinkedIn, Wall Street and executive crowd as well as traditional BuzzFeed readers.
“He describes the main business topics BuzzFeed Business will cover — Wall Street, media/entertainment, consumer technology, specialty retail — as ‘sexy and inherently shareable.’ Lauria notes: ‘There’s an appetite among people in the business community to not always be taken so seriously and be bland, boring suit-and-tie-wearing people that have no personalities.’
“Dean Starkman, editor of Columbia Journalism Review’s business section, says the strategy is a good one. ‘The reason this makes sense is that it’s not about creating content for a BuzzFeed reader. What they’re really targeting is LinkedIn…. And they’ll do it according to their formula — being as sensational and attention-grabbing as possible. There’s nothing inherently serious about business news that you can’t play with.’
“Before launching the section, Smith told The Wall Street Journal he wanted to ‘bring some of the DNA of a great tabloid business section’ to the site. Lauria says this means several things, beginning with having a certain attitude or point of view.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Alex Kowalski, an economics reporter for Bloomberg News in Washington, is leaving the wire service for graduate school in urban planning at Cal-Berkeley.
“I will focus on housing, community and economic development, topics that increasingly commanded my interests as I wrote more and more about the U.S. economy,” wrote Kowalski in an email to Talking Biz News.
“What happens next? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t mind, for a change, producing a research paper or a policy briefing instead of digesting one.”
He started at Bloomberg in 2010 upon his graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill. While at UNC-CH, he was a columnist and a city desk reporter for The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper, and was a summer intern at Bloomberg and at Congressional Quarterly. He was also on the men’s crew team at UNC.
One of his colleagues sent out the following announcement in a bit of economic reporter humor:
Please join us to bid farewell to Alex Kowalski, who is leaving Bloomberg to become the Perfect Anecdote.
Alex will be lowering the participation rate, taking on student debt, renting instead of buying, and avoiding retail outlets (unless he’s underemployed at one of them for less than 35 hours a week and not collecting health benefits).
In the process, he’ll give a boost to Comfort, especially in the critical 18- to 34-year-old bracket, because he’ll be doing what he’s been wanting to do for a long time: get his graduate degree.
by Chris Roush
Wall Street Journal managing editor Gerard Baker sent out the following staff promotion on Wednesday:
I’m delighted to announce that Dave Pettit is appointed Editor, Institutional News and Data.
In this newly created role, Dave will oversee the transition of our newswires platform to the digital age — a change that is critical to the success of the entire newsroom. Drawing on the strength of an integrated news organization, Dave will lead the launch of several specialized coverage areas, or “Dominants”, as well as the development of a digital news service, provisionally branded “DJX”. In addition, Dave will continue his leading role in the newsroom integration project.
Dave has broad experience in real-time and digital journalism. He was part of the team that launched WSJ.com and eventually became the site’s deputy managing editor. At the Online Journal, he directed overall news coverage, developed multimedia and oversaw the site’s most far-reaching redesign so far, in 2008. Following his tenure at WSJ.com, Dave helped launch new products for the Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, including market data and Dow Jones FX Trader. He worked as an editor and reporter for Dow Jones Newswires in New York from 1989-1995.
He will report to Almar Latour.
by Chris Roush
Foxman writes, “Alternatives to Bloomberg chat are already out there, the most prominent offered by Thomson Reuters itself since 2002. In fact, according to a source, Thomson Reuters Messenger has long been part of the media giant’s plans to win back Wall Street from Bloomberg—well before the Bloomberg snooping scandal.
“‘They know that they can’t match the data side,’ said the source, who had access to data on Reuters’ Messenger but spoke to Quartz on condition of anonymity. ‘But Reuters is much stronger in Europe and Asia, where the Bloomberg terminal hasn’t had as much penetration. Reuters Messenger is really popular there.’ The existing technology is expected to serve as a jumping-off point for Open Federated Chat; the main difference seems to be that the new service will have the backing of Markit and major banks.
“Thomson Reuters gives Messenger to Wall Street users free of charge, both as a standalone platform that synchronizes with chat networks like AOL and Yahoo, and as part of Reuters’ Eikon terminal interface. It offers more features than Bloomberg’s chat service, particularly in its chat rooms. The most recent of these, launched in January of this year, was the Global Markets Forum, which is run by a handful of Reuters editorial staff. Like the existing Global Oil Forum and Global Ags Forum, it encourages users to banter about the markets. Big-name economists and investors like Société Générale’s Kit Juckes and HSBC’s Steven Major are invited on to stimulate the discussion. Other chat rooms are locked to journalists.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Gregory Millman of The Wall Street Journal writes about the time that the Internal Revenue Service secretly obtained his phone records.
Millman writes, “My first-hand experience of this came when agents of the Secret Service (then part of the Treasury Department, now part of the Department of Homeland Security) appeared at my door in 1991. I was a freelance journalist at the time, and had written a story about a tax issue for a now-defunct magazine called ‘Corporate Finance.’ Two agents in suits knocked on my back door one autumn day as the children were sitting down to lunch, came in and urged me to identify my sources for the story, in which I had cited an Internal Revenue Service memo. When I refused to identify anyone, the agents told me I could wind up spending five years in prison. I didn’t know at the time that they already had a record of every phone call I had made.
“At the request of the IRS, my telephone company had already turned over my phone records covering an unspecified period, and agents had been at work identifying calls to numbers they thought might be leads. They seem to have thought my source was in the Washington-Maryland area, because after finding numbers I had called in that area they went after the records of calls made from those numbers, as holders of those numbers later told me. That’s how they happened to scoop up the phone records of a home builder, a trade association of corporate finance officers, an old friend who happened to live in Washington, D.C., and the Alicia Patterson Foundation, which supports investigative journalism and which I had called to discuss a fellowship. None of these people or organizations had anything to do with the story at issue, and none learned until long afterward that IRS investigators had been secretly riffling through records of all their phone calls.
“I never received any official notice about that either. My attorney only learned of it accidentally. In what may be another good example of government waste and duplication, several months after the IRS had started going through the phone records, the Department of Justice launched its own investigation. In keeping with the DOJ’s policy, in mid-January of 1992 I got a notice that it wanted my records. We went to court to fight, lost, and the records were in the hands of the prosecutors by the end of the month. In the course of our fight, my attorney learned from my phone company that it had already turned the records over to the IRS months before.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Todd Wasserman of Mashable writes that Bloomberg Businessweek is targeting twentysomethings living at home for a campaign that aims to gently nudge them out of their parents’ basements by offering — what else? — a subscription to the magazine.
Wasserman writes, “The title launched the website bbwgetsyouahead.com, which houses e-giftcards that parents and friends can send to Gen Y-ers still living at home. One card from the parents reads, ‘Our American dream is for you to move out.’ A friend’s card offers the following inspiring message: ‘**Spoiler Alert** You end up middle-aged and single.’ In addition to launching the site, Bloomberg Businessweek will also run an online campaign.
“Physical versions of these cards will also be available at the stationery chain Papyrus. The cards are designed to be sent with 12 free issues of Bloomberg Businessweek, either in print or on the iPad.
“Bloomberg Businessweek, which Michael Bloomberg purchased and reconstituted in 2009, claims 980,000 global subscribers. A representative could not say how many of those readers are in its campaign target group — 18 to 31 years old and living at home — but acknowledged that it’s a ‘growing demo.’ The campaign ‘is not too subtle, and that’s what we liked about it,’ the representative said.
“That said, Bloomberg Businessweek may not necessarily be the magazine you’d normally think to give a young person hitting the job market. It doesn’t include any interviewing tips, and boasts little prescriptive advice.”
Read more here.