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March 19, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:07am

Bloomberg Media CEO: Journalism industry needs more ‘imagination, creativity and urgency’ to emerge from Covid-19 crisis

By William Turvill

The boss of Bloomberg Media has called on the journalism industry to show more “imagination, creativity and urgency” to battle back from the Covid-19 crisis.

Justin B Smith, who has led Bloomberg’s media division since 2013, said the decline of news media is part of the reason that “the strength and quality of our public discourse in America and around the world is at an all-time low”.

Speaking at an Enders Analysis conference, Smith told how Bloomberg itself is seeking to battle this trend through “invention-led growth”.

Bloomberg Media has launched six new businesses in the last five years as it has sought to fight against the decline of traditional revenue streams. As a result, said Smith, Bloomberg Media is on course for its revenues to grow by 35% this year to “peak historic” levels.

[Read more: Bloomberg Media CEO Justin B Smith on new 24/7 streaming channel Quicktake and reaching 250,000 subscribers]

On the state of the journalism industry, Smith said: “In the US alone, the journalism-based news business lost 35,000 jobs in 2020 [source: New York Times].

“We’ve seen the continued destruction of the local news model, both in newspapers and in local TV.

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“Tech platforms, which really are the dominant media companies of our time, have tightened their stranglehold on audiences and ad revenue.

“Premium news outlets like the New York Times are succeeding based on subscription revenue growth, but subscription success stories and few and far between, and it appears more and more like a winner-take-all situation.

“And the promising digital disrupters of the last decade – the Buzzfeeds, Vices and Voxes – have hit a plateau of both influence and commercial success.”

He added: “At least in part because of these trends, the strength and quality of our public discourse in America and around the world is at an all-time low. Misinformation and polarisation of content models are creating a civic health crisis, and the pandemic has made everything worse.”

He suggested that journalism companies, with their “backs against the wall”, have in general failed to respond with the “imagination, creativity and urgency that’s required to fight our way out of this”.

The Bloomberg Media CEO added that he views the most important issue as being a “talent problem”. “There’s a lack of focused, entrepreneurial talent in the news media industry, especially on the business side of media,” he said.

Smith said that Bloomberg Media has sought to respond to the decline in recent years of the ad market through “invention-led growth”. In the last five years, he said, the company has launched six new businesses.

Bloomberg Media is now on course for 35% top-line revenue growth this year, he said, taking it to “peak historic” levels.

Bloomberg Media’s new businesses include its Quicktake streaming channel and its consumer subscriptions arm, which launched in 2018 and has built up to more than 250,000 paying readers.

Smith recently said he expects this figure to increase to 400,000 this year. The consumer media subscriptions arm is separate from Bloomberg’s pricier B2B terminal subscription business, which has around 325,000 subscribers, according to a recent Axios report.

The other new businesses are Bloomberg New Economy Forum, Bloomberg CityLab, Bloomberg Green and Bloomberg Wealth.

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