OPA Intelligence Reports

Posted in News on 12/17/2012 By Mark Glaser & Courtney Lowery Cowgill

Bloomberg + Financial Times?

Should Michael Bloomberg buy the Financial Times? He quipped to an editor that he does actually “buy it every day.” And, in his case, that might be his main reason for really buying the paper. A well-sourced story by Amy Chozick and Michael Barbaro in the New York Times was the first to plant the seed that Bloomberg might be interested, but it’s been long known that the New York mayor is very fond of the paper. But, as the Times story points out, “His ambivalence speaks to the troubles facing the newspaper business, and to the complex motivations of the mayor himself. Drawn to power and prominence, Mr. Bloomberg is wrestling with his affection for the paper as its potential publisher and his wariness of an investment that could mar his company’s reputation for achieving outsize profits.”

The Financial Times, which also includes a half-stake in The Economist, has definitely worked to innovate digitally, with a fairly popular app (that was one of the first to work around the App Store) and a successful pay wall. It’s touted as a scrappy success story in the digital world. This summer, it passed a major milestone – a milestone many in the news business have been trying to reach – when its digital subscriber number surpassed its print subscribers. It now sits at about 600,000 subscribers, more than half of them from digital. And that number is growing. For the first half of the year, digital subs were up 31 percent. And revenues generally were up 6 percent over last year. Still, analysts say the paper is losing money. It’s still pretty attractive, however, if Bloomberg is willing to get into the ink game and manage its transition to digital. As Roberts puts it, “Taking on a free-wheeling global news brand, even one as prestigious as the FT, could prove to be a dangerous distraction” from Bloomberg’s other endeavors. He might also end up in a bidding war with Thomson Reuters, which also has deep pockets.