The front page of The New York Times today has an extensive report on the struggles that Bloomberg L.P. is facing in the face of flagging financial terminal sales and dilemmas over its coverage in China.
According to the report (which, it's worth noting, features four bylines), terminal subscriber growth has fallen substantially, from 47,000 in 2010 and 2011 combined to around 4,000 over the past two years. Sales have supposedly fallen off a cliff in mainland China following reports published by the company last year that drew ire from those in the Communist Party.
In the past few weeks, the company's news division has gained attention for allegedly killing a story critical of China in order to curry favor with the country, as well as announcing layoffs and restructuring in order to focus more closely on financial news. While employees of the news division amount to about 15 percent of the company, their news product accounts for only four percent of total revenue, though it has consistently won awards for the quality of reporting.
Higher-ups at the company estimate that only 25 to 30 percent of the 315,000 terminal subscribers even use the included news service, and if they do, they want less longform investigative journalism and more quick, Twitter-like news blasts. A growing division called First Word will focus on delivering that style of news.
One former executive for the company summed up the quandary about reporting on Chinese business thusly: "If you have a $9 billion company that is about to be crippled by a news division that loses $100 million a year, shouldn’t you take a breath and think about the implications of what you are doing?"
As the company plans for Mike Bloomberg to leave the mayor's office and have more impact on the company's day-to-day operations, it has the figure out whether it's worth compromising its reporting integrity for its services product, or vice versa.