Interview with Norm Pearlstine

At the Future of Business Media Conference, former executive editor of the Wall Street Journal, and then, editor-in-chief of Time, Norm Pearlstine — now “chief content officer” of Bloomberg — is being interviewed by Lauren Rich Fine. The following are my rough notes, not quotes.

Fine: Bulk of Bloomberg’s revenue comes from “the terminal business” — about 290,000 customers pay about $18,000 per year to access that news and information. (That’s about $5 billion.) They have TV cable channel, magazine that goes to terminal customers and syndication business. The non-terminal business is (estimate) less than 10%, so why is it important?

Pearlstine: It’s a relatively small slice of the business world that operates in the terminal business, but we always see competitors, so we think the brand allows us to do various and successful things. If we do them well, they can help our business.

Fine: How do you view Dow Jones and Thompson-Reuters?

Pearlstine:In my short time there, I’ve seen an incredibly customer-focused company. They don’t really focus on a specific competitor. They view everybody as competition because everyone is coming after the Bloomberg customers.

Fine: Do you have changes in mind? Are you pleased with what you see?

Pearlstine:Bloomberg TV has always seemed like an extension of the terminal. If you think back to that time, what we were trying to do was laudable. But there was not a recognition that TV was a different medium where entertainment and personality matters.

More about Bloomberg TV: We were the first business media to put an ap on the iPhone (huh? the wsj had one a day one).

Fine: Do we really need another Business TV cable channel?

Pearlstine:We feel we have ideas about differentiation from the other channels. And we also have a global footprint that distinguishes us from the others — especially from Fox. We also have the tie-in with the terminal audience.

Question from the audience: Why don’t you acquire companies?

Pearlstine:We’ve found it better to build. However, we have signaled that we will look at investment in companies and acquisitions — but not probably the types of acquisitions you read about — smaller ones. (Pearlstine makes a passing quip — that I didn’t quite catch — about AOL, referencing his experience at Time.)

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  • Rex, you might be confused about the iPhone app store. There is still, to this day, no WSJ app. I’m not sure why — seems like a natural. The Bloomberg app is very good, even lets you find the the most recent stories about any company, and has been updated a few times too.