Posted by: Jon Fine on October 14, 2008
I’m in a glass fishbowl of a conference room at Bloomberg LP’s imposing Manhattan headquarters. It is approximately one hour since employees were introduced to Andy Lack, the company’s newly appointed CEO of multimedia. And while Lack and his fellow execs Norman Pearlstine (Chief Content Officer) and Matthew Winkler (founder and editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News) are chummy and spirited during a quick group interview, none are offering too many specifics as to what this all means for the company.
“I get to not have to answer that until I start,” jokes Lack, who still has several days before his tenure at Blomberg begins. “You are almost always wrong about whatever you say” as you enter a new job.
But it’s clear that Bloomberg is entertaining some new ambitions for its media operations, which employ around 2300 while remaining a tiny adjunct to the company’s insanely lucrative business of renting terminals, and their related information services, to finance professionals. (Pearlstine, the former editor in chief of Time Warner unit Time Inc., was hired this year as well.)
Lack most recently was Chairman of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, following a stint as its CEO. But before that, he was President and Chief Operating officer of NBC, after serving as its President of News, and that TV experience has clearly intrigued his new employers. In a subsequent phone interview Bloomberg President Dan Doctoroff described five attributes of the company’s dream multimedia CEO, of which the first was “ a deep understand of the business of television.” The company’s TV operations, Doctoroff later added, “have not been what they should be.”
Lack described some Bloomberg units he’ll be overseeing like this: “Radio is working. TV has bumped along. It could be better.” (Bloomberg’s cable channel is in 58 million US homes, according to the company, and here’s where I should disclose that I am an on-air contributor to CNBC.)
Another big part of Lack’s job will be coordinating online strategy, another area that Doctoroff said had room to improve. “You look at our Web site today. Depending on who’s counting, there’s five or six million [unique visitors] a month,” Doctoroff said. (Actually, comScore figures report that bloomberg.com garnered 2.8 million unique visitors in the US September, which makes it the twelfth-largest business Web site.) That traffic’s arrived at Bloomberg.com “without a focused effort” from the company to bring them there.
“We’ve never really tried” online, Doctoroff said, but he said significant changes to Bloomberg.com are coming. “We’ve lifted information off the terminal. But what you will see, I think, is a much more imaginative approach.” He said such changes to Bloomberg.com will be visible sometime during the first half of 2009.
As for what those changes might look like, no one seems to know yet. Or if they do, they’re not talking. The obvious assumption to make would be that Bloomberg will play harder for a broader consumer audience, a notion that Winkler did not rule out but did not exactly confirm. At Bloomberg, he said, “we didn’t distinguish, if you will, between the pro and –if you forgive me—the dope. We always said we want to write so the pro appreciates what we do and the dope understands what we do . . . We thought the story ought to reach the broadest possible audience.”
Doctoroff said he and Pearlstine had spoken to around a dozen candidates for the multimedia position.