Bloomberg Puts Up Paywall

Following on yesterday’s analysis of paywall economics for digital news media, Bloomberg Digital has become the latest news site to switch to a metered paywall system.

Here’s the letter from Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait. At $35-$40 a month it’s priced to compete with the FT and the Wall St Journal. The Economist is in its sights too: The upper range subscription includes weekly delivery of Bloomberg Businessweek, the loss-making and (to our minds) underrated print edition.

Worth noting in the letter is the Editor-in-Chief’s description of the two daily email newsletters sent to subscribers as “virtual newspapers.”

“To start your day, you can get The Bloomberg Open, a virtual newspaper delivered straight to your phone; and as you leave work, you will receive The Bloomberg Close. Both these newsletters will come in three regional editions—Europe, Asia and the Americas.”

Is “virtual newspaper” just a newsman’s term for an email newsletter, or are we seeing something more complex here, perhaps an edition similar to Bloomberg’s now-discontinued daily London email, which resembled a virtual version of a physical newsletter? We’ll be watching to see if – and how – Bloomberg reinvents the newspaper.

Video’s an important part of the offering. It’s the first time we’ve seen metered access to video, with non-subscribers getting 30 minutes of free video content daily before being asked to upgrade to paid.

On the face of it Bloomberg’s move to subscription is good news for competitors like the FT and the WSJ and bad news for company expenses.

As a free service offering content of a similar quality to its US/UK competitors, Bloomberg   was a good way for readers interested in quality financial journalism but not enough to pay for it to find reporting that would otherwise be paywalled. Now cheapskates will have to pay for it too. Faced with $35 monthly rates though, readers might just as well go for the FT or the Journal, if they’ve been using Bloomberg as substitute.

As a large number of business news subscriptions are expensed, the paywall could be a headache for accounts departments if staff decide they need not only FT and Journal reporting, but Bloomberg Digital too.

Bloomberg’s banking that its financial services brand will swing subscribers over. That and video. Its video coverage is comprehensive and high-quality but under most circumstances, who needs more than 30 minutes financial news video a day? If you do feel the urge, much of the good stuff is currently available on Bloomberg’s YouTube channels.

Bloomberg Digital isn’t Bloomberg’s main money spinner. Its $22,500 per year Terminal business makes up 86 percent of revenues, but cost-cutting, unbundling and competition from financial institutions’ in-house startups marks it as a target for medium-term disruption.