Bloomberg's Acquisition of BusinessWeek Is Mostly Good News

Last Updated Oct 15, 2009 12:14 PM EDT

I'm sure some long-time BusinessWeek employees would disagree with me, but it's really good news for the magazine the media property that it got bought by Bloomberg, instead of some of the other suitors out there. There are two reasons why:
  1. Bloomberg is a much better fit with BusinessWeek than McGraw-Hill, which has a big portfolio of trade journals such as Aviation Week. In joining Bloomberg, it will be partnered with another organization devoted to covering business, and the two should play off each other nicely. While Bloomberg is a name primarily among investment professionals, BW's subscriber base is built on the more general business community. Both will benefit.
  2. To an extent, BW is not being bought so much as it's being swallowed up, and that's a good thing. BW has about 200 editorial employees; Bloomberg has more than 2000 globally. There's something to be said, particularly if your prime business is print, for being subsumed into a larger whole. It makes it much easier for BW to ride out the print storm and maybe even find its footing again as a magazine once the storm passes, even if print, as we know it, is forever gone. Meanwhile, its other components will be turbocharged, as Bloomberg is a much more powerful cross-platform brand than BW. (As an aside, back when The Wall Street Journal was being bought by News Corp., I marveled at those who fought the idea that the WSJ getting bought would be disastrous. News Corp. isn't my favorite media organization, but it's hard to argue with how the lifeline News Corp. threw the WSJ has helped the brand, particularly in this economy.)
Of course, there will be problems with combining Bloomberg and BW too. Although BW did not sell for $1 -- as was speculated about several months ago -- it still went for a song. Bloomberg bought it for somewhere between $2 million and $5 million, so it's not exactly buying the property at the height of its influence. Though the lousy economy is partly to blame, that's not the whole problem; It's become a pretty boring read; I can't think of the last time someone passed me a must-read story from BW. There are definitely some talented people there, but even before the current downturn, the majority of BW employees I've known seemed constantly demoralized. Years of layoffs and organizational changes will do that to a place. Bloomberg is inheriting a staff that needs a morale boost, particularly now.

The good news is that Norm Pearlstine, Bloomberg's chief content officer (and former editor-in-chief of Time Inc. and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal), seems up to the task. What would be really cool, and is certainly not Bloomberg's strong suit, is a renewed focus on BW features that deliver insight much deeper than the headlines.

I'm hopeful about this deal, except for one thing -- immediately changing the name to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Instead of being the ultimate expression of synergy, it seems like Bloomberg doing an obnoxious end-zone victory dance after a touchdown. Just do the BW brand a favor and make the type that says "Bloomberg" really small.