No, Michael Bloomberg Does Not Need a Website

Having hired tech guru Joshua Topolsky to build up his website, Mike Bloomberg has now canned the guy and in the opening paragraph of the New York Times story, we get this gem:

Earlier this year, after Michael Bloomberg reasserted control over the company he founded and began to scrutinize its online operations, he suggested in a meeting that perhaps Bloomberg — which makes the overwhelming majority of its money from desk terminals that provide financial data — did not need to have a website.

Joshua Topolsky, the founder of a prominent technology website who had been hired to oversee a glossy reintroduction of Bloomberg’s web properties, responded sarcastically, making fun of the suggestion, according to three people with knowledge of the exchange, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Bloomberg, who often challenges subordinates with provocative questions, has grown accustomed to deference, the people said. He was furious, and his relationship with Mr. Topolsky subsequently deteriorated to the point that both decided it was better if Mr. Topolsky left.

No sarcasm intended — I actually think Bloomberg is on to something. He does not need a website and, in fact, I think a website ruins his overall brand.

For those of you unfamiliar, Bloomberg makes his money off a “Bloomberg Terminal,” a proprietary computer system that lets its users get real time news, information, market prices, etc. The content of his website is also there. By giving away his web news, opinion, etc., Bloomberg devalues his Bloomberg Terminal, except for financial institutions. Bloomberg makes billions off those terminals, not so much anything else.

Bloomberg should shut down the website portal. Why? Well, we live in a gnostic age. People think there is some secret group or secret place wherein people acquire specialized knowledge, or get news ahead of everyone else. In the 80’s there were teletype machines that essentially did that. I remember going to the Astoria Hotel in Dubai. There was a constant teletype machine going. If you stood over it, you knew the news before anyone else.

The Bloomberg Terminal does the same. It gives its users a leg up on data, knowledge, and therefore power.

If I were Bloomberg, I would keep the news, opinion, analysis, etc. but only give it to the Bloomberg Terminal subscribers. I’d issue a Bloomberg Terminal for institutions that don’t need the financial data, but do want all the late breaking news, analysis, commentary, opinion, etc. Then I’d do a better job of curating who my opinion writers are to paint a picture for the Terminal subscribers that is thorough, left, right, center, informative, analytical, etc.

There will always be a market for gnostic knowledge and the desire to be the first to know. Those in finance will always subscribe. But Bloomberg could actually expand the market for his stuff if he shutters his website and makes it even more exclusive.

It’s counterintuitive, but in a world where the first to know are the most powerful, there are a lot of people who want to be the first to know and will pay to beat the masses who go to a Bloomberg website.

Oh, I’d keep Bloomberg TV as well. Reporters are egoists. If you shut down the website, you still need an outlet for these people to get their names and faces out there. There’s no better place a TV channel to do that.