But here’s the rub: Bloomberg is different from other news organizations, and its peculiar terminal-sales model gives it a far larger stake in China than a traditional news organization might have. If the Times gets thrown out of China, it would suffer journalistically, but not so much financially (though now it’s trying to grow its readership base there). If, on the other hand, Bloomberg were to get thrown out of China, it would lose journalistically, yes, but also much more financially. Its $20,000-a-year terminals are sold to mostly financial firms, and Wall Street isn’t the market it used to be (thank goodness). Here’s a snapshot of the company’s growth in the last few years:
2010: 300k subscribers, $6.9B revenue;
2011: 313K subscribers, $7.6B revenue;
2012: 315k subscribers, $7.9B revenue.
Not bad but nothing to write home about.
There is no evidence—at all—that financial considerations had anything to do with the editorial decisions on the stories in question. On the other hand, Bloomberg’s unique business model gives it interests in the market that other news organizations simply do not have. The real parallel might be to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which has often been accused of sacrificing journalism interests to business interests in China. But the comparison would be decidedly unfair to Bloomberg, which, in so many ways, is the anti-News Corp.
Still, the story of Bloomberg News in the last decade or so is that of an upstart news organization—by dint of massive spending, talent recruitment, and sheer, maniacal effort—muscling its way into the forefront of the business-news business, even as it carries a terminal-sized chip on its shoulder.
It has proven itself, time and again, perfectly capable of taking on Wall Street, itself an important market for terminals. One could argue that it has earned the benefit of the doubt.
But its own staffers, at considerable risk to their careers, have brought the issue to the fore. And now it’s up to Bloomberg News to prove it again.
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