The success of print has held back mobile advertising growth: Justin Smith

Interview with Chief executive, Bloomberg Media Group
Vanita Kohli-Khandekar April 15, 2015

Bloomberg is one of the world’s largest suppliers of financial information through its 320,000 terminals spread over 174 countries. It also owns Businessweek magazine, Bloomberg TV and several news sites. In India, Bloomberg TV reached 30 million homes in 2014. Justin Smith, chief executive, Bloomberg Media Group, spoke to Vanita Kohli-Khandekar on his first trip to India. Edited excerpts:

On India and plans for the market

India is a high-priority market for us for the terminal and media business. Our TV business here has had significant success. We’re now looking at the business television market and how it is evolving. CNBC is in a leadership position. We’ll continue to play less and less in the retail finance, stock-market gyration driven market and double down on our core focus of business trends and intelligent analysis with decision makers. We’re not a leader in audience share. We’re comfortable with a focus on the premium segment of the audience. When we looked at the Budget, we analysed the change in the government’s focus instead of stock market news.

On the media market in India

Unlike most other markets, newspapers seem strong and profitable in India. Maybe it is a bubble and we can’t see the downward trend. Print magazines seem to have borne the brunt of declining audience engagement. Then there is time spent on mobile devices, which is high but ad spend on it is low. The success of print has held back mobile (advertising) growth.

On the trouble with the business of news

Media, not just news, faces significant challenges. You can’t classify news as one general segment. When you segment it, you can identify the most vulnerable part – the more commoditised, general news part. That space has suffered the most. The web has increased the sources of information and differentiation is the name of the game. News has to be original and not replicable. That leads you to more niche and fragmented areas. Therefore, news will become more specialised and focused. We’ll see in that process a new form of journalism. The future is bright for specialised news.

On aggregators hogging online revenues

Can’t say aggregators get all the value and the creators have lost it; new-generation content creators are changing that. There is now a balance of power with aggregators because the audience has the option of going direct. For example, Glenn Beck, a right-wing commentator in the US, went direct (in 2011 and set up The Blaze. Beck’s annual earnings, based on his own shows and talks, were $90 million according to a Forbes report in June 2014. This includes subscription revenues). The ad share of Google and FB (Facebook) on the mobile is huge and a significant threat to publishers who haven’t figured out how to tackle this.


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