Ashwini GangalPublished: 17 Sep 2019, 11:45 PM
Interviews

“We were late to the party in India”: Parry Ravindranathan, Bloomberg Media

Globally, Bloomberg is a powerful brand. In the Indian context, it’s a latecomer that a lot of people don’t know much about. The on-stage discussion this article is based on gave me a crash course on this company. This article might do the same for some of our readers.

Bloomberg Media is part of Bloomberg LP, a privately held company owned by American businessman Michael Bloomberg. The parent company has interests in financial data and information, and, as per a recent report (BusinessInsider.com, January 2019), crossed $10 billion in organic revenue last year.

Bloomberg’s media business has roots in the 1980s (radio) and 1990s (television); originally started as the marketing arm of Bloomberg, it has now evolved into what we know as Bloomberg Media Group. The leadership decided to run this arm as a proper media company only around 12 years ago. In a recent interview with Sreekant Khandekar, curator of our web publishing conference Digipub World and co-founder of afaqs!, Parry Ravindranathan, president and managing director, international, Bloomberg Media, spoke about the company and its digital media business in some detail.

Bloomberg Media, which comprises around 140 news bureaus and employs around 3,000 journalists, spread across the USA, Asia, West Asia, Europe and Africa, includes Bloomberg’s television, radio, digital and OTT properties, as well as live events, magazines, licensing, partnerships and syndication.

In India, the Bloomberg partnered with Raghav Bahl’s Quintillion Media to create Bloomberg Quint, in 2016.

Ravindranathan, who is Hong Kong-based, is in-charge of all of Bloomberg Media’s businesses outside of the USA.

Edited excerpts.

Watch the full interview here

Khandekar: Who are your competitors in different markets?

Ravindranathan: Our competitors are different for different platforms. On TV, outside the US, CNBC, CNN are competitors. In the magazine market --(Bloomberg owns Businessweek, a business magazine it bought 10 years back from McGraw-Hill; presently, it has a circulation of around 7,50,000, globally)-- we compete with The Economist, Fortune. Our other magazine Bloomberg Markets is targeted at our ‘terminal customers’ (that is, buyers of Bloomberg’s terminals – namely, monitors that provide information about stock markets), a high net worth, premium audience, and this makes it an attractive property for most advertisers.

On digital, who’s not a competitor? Everyone’s a competitor, including big local players like Times Internet. For us, digital is where all the growth is.

"On digital, who’s not a competitor? Everyone’s a competitor, including big local players like Times Internet. For us, digital is where all the growth is."
Parry Ravindranathan
Bloomberg's terminal
Bloomberg's terminal
The New York Times

Khandekar: Speaking of terminal customers, do you, as Bloomberg Media, have any responsibilities towards the terminal business?

Ravindranathan: Oh, the terminal business is the core; it’s at the centre of everything. We’re like the halo around it, and are responsible for it in a lot of ways.

"For years, much like anyone else, digital, especially digital video, was about taking stuff from TV and other parts of our business and putting it online and giving it for free. As revenues increased, around five years back, we became more nuanced, targeted and specialised about it."
Parry Ravindranathan

Khandekar: Looking back over the last 10 years, how did your digital business grow? What were the lessons you learnt along the way?

Ravindranathan: For years, much like anyone else, digital, especially digital video, was about taking stuff from TV and other parts of our business and putting it online and giving it for free. As revenues increased, around five years back, we became more nuanced, targeted and specialised about it. Few years back, our digital revenues crossed TV (revenues) - for anyone sitting outside India, that’s not surprising. At some point the economics will catch up here as well.

Parry Ravindranathan with Sreekant Khandekar
Parry Ravindranathan with Sreekant Khandekar
Digipub World 2019

Khandekar: And when the digital surge began, around five years back, what difference did you observe between TV and digital audiences – and the stuff they consumed?

Ravindranathan: The digital audience is much broader. Our TV (audience) is more finance and business focused, whereas (digital) has everything - tech, politics… Even the audience size is broader on digital.

Overall, the audience for business stories has grown. Previously, a finance story would never be in the top three stories of the day. Today, any day of the week, a finance story will be in the top stories.

Khandekar: Within Asia, how different is your digital audience across countries?

Ravindranathan: Very different. For example, in Hong Kong (the audience is interested in) finance, in India people prefer economics and opinion based content to pure finance.

Khandekar: Bloomberg has vast geographical scope… on the monetisation front, how do things stand?

Ravindranathan: In the US, there’s this sudden saturation of the digital ad business. We believe subscription is a really strong business…

"Overall, the audience for business stories has grown. Previously, a finance story would never be in the top three stories of the day. Today, any day of the week, a finance story will be in the top stories."
Parry Ravindranathan

Khandekar: … how did you come around to it? Why now?

Ravindranathan: I’ll be honest – I think we were late. Many of our direct competitors were in it many years back. I think we just took the plunge…

Khandekar: Why is your presence in India so poor?

Ravindranathan: We were late to the party here in India, I admit. It was not by design, it was by accident. When we entered, there were many dominant players, like CNBC. So one is playing catch up…

These were the highlights of the interview. Ravindranathan then went on to talk about Bloomberg TicToc, an 18-month old venture between Bloomberg and Twitter, which is now the company’s OTT offering. Watch the video embedded in this article for details.