Anyone who thinks the news business is dead should look at the wire services. Privately-owned Bloomberg is adding 950 staff, 100 of them journalists, an almost 10 per cent expansion. News Corporation is cutting jobs at the Wall Street Journal, but adding them at Dow Jones newswires. Nor is this hiring spree mere bravura. While newspaper groups such as the New York Times and Independent News & Media are having to fight for survival, the wires are buzzing. London-listed shares of information group Thomson Reuters, for example, are at the same level as last May, when the merger of Reuters and Thomson closed. Since then, the FTSE has dropped 35 per cent. Thanks to a technological shift, instead of just wholesaling news and data, the wire services can in theory now also sell it direct to consumers via the internet or mobile applications.

A bigger problem is the banking crisis. Peter Grauer, Bloomberg’s chairman, believes the financial services industry will cut its information spending by 20 per cent this year. Such shrinkage offers a replay of the slugging match that took place during the dot.com downturn, when Bloomberg got the better of Reuters, its duopolistic financial information rival. This time Reuters may fare better. Bloomberg can’t count on the hedge funds it courted in the 2000s to pick up the slack. It is dominant in fixed-income, not the best place to be now; Reuters is stronger in forex and commodities. Furthermore, Thomson Reuters’s legal and medical information provide extra ballast. Bloomberg’s largely one-trick business model, renting terminals at $1,590 per month, hinges on body count.   Source: Financial Times Lex Column

BIIA Newsletter April 2009 Issue