‘Inside In-housing’ is a feature series created in partnership with OLIVER (the pioneer of the in-house model for brands), in which marketers explore the different opportunities and challenges of modern-day agency models. As brands’ marketing needs evolve, in-housing is becoming an increasingly appealing avenue for marketers. From full-service agencies and content studios to hybrid models that allow brands a more a la carte approach, there are many ways to approach in-housing.
Bloomberg publishes 5000 stories per day, drawing on the resources of 2700 journalists globally. How does a brand this big continue to expand, grow, and reach new subscribers? By doing what it has always done best - delivering data-driven stories, news, and the content it knows its subscribers want and need. This means meeting consumers where they are - email, podcasts, events, TV shows, newsletters, magazines, without compromising the core principles and finance focus that made the company what it is today. The evolution is helping Bloomberg meet new, modern business leaders at the intersection of business, culture, and innovation.
Based largely on long-standing brand-trust, Bloomberg is attracting advertisers who are keen to be associated with trustworthy names. Compared to the same period last year, Bloomberg saw its advertising revenue rise by 41% in the first quarter, despite a market-wide downturn in consumer appetite for news.
For Bloomberg, commerce cannot exist without creativity and that’s why at this year’s Cannes Lions, Bloomberg Media’s ESG House is hosting a series of talks over four days with some of the entertainment industry’s most prolific names and advertising industry’s living legends.
Driving this evolution is Stephen Colvin, Bloomberg’s chief commercial officer. He started with the company in 2017 as the global head of Bloomberg LIVE (the company’s global events division). During his tenure in the role, he grew the business substantially through the creation of news-making events that brought together so much of what makes Bloomberg one of the most trusted media brands in the world: its data, its network, and its talent. He also oversaw the launch of multiple franchises while expanding Bloomberg’s footprint across the US, EMEA, and APAC.
Today, Stephen speaks to LBB about overseeing Bloomberg’s commercial operations, why brand safety appeals to consumers and advertisers alike, and why Cannes Lions is becoming bigger than the Cannes Film Festival.
LBB> You first joined Bloomberg in 2017 as the global head of Bloomberg LIVE. Can you talk us through what that role encompassed?
Stephen> The events component of Bloomberg had never really been focused on, prior to my arriving, so I was brought in by the events CEO to create the strategy and fast track it. I spent the usual 60 days or so doing a deep dive into the business and I realised that events have never been the priority but always an important aspect and platform. There was a huge opportunity to create a news platform and an event platform within a news organisation, which mirrored the different verticals of the newsroom. Whether that be finance, with Bloomberg Invest, or tech with Bloomberg Technology, and so forth.
We’re keeping it simple for that reason. We were creating an incremental platform that provided an opportunity for our TV anchors - one of the benefits we have at Bloomberg are the TV anchors and they are TV anchors for a reason, they have that charisma - putting them on stage is magic. We could do that, harnessing the Bloomberg intelligence - the resources of Bloomberg - and create really meaningful conversations with guest speakers on the topics that we’re covering. Bringing in an audience of C-suite decision makers for that topic, whether that be finance, technology, or anything else.
We had marquee events, first launched in America, which we then took to Europe and the Middle East - it became a global events business. We brought in sponsors who wanted to connect with the audience and be associated with the conversations we were having.
LBB> Why was this a successful strategy for Bloomberg? Taking news into a live setting?
Stephen> There was an appetite for it. We have the authority and access to the best speakers on our TV networks; we created something that was three dimensional. One of the benefits of a Bloomberg event is we can use terminal data in real time. If you’re at a Bloomberg event - we’ve got 170 bureaus - if you’re at a conference, on the screen, we can be feeding in real-time data. We’ll have the CEO of one of the big banks or the CEO of Amazon, asking them and using the data in real-time as part of the conversation. No one else has that actually. So we used Bloomberg's research and real-time data, TV anchors, access to the C-suite and a robust database of who to invite. What’s not to like if you’re a sponsor and want to be associated with, say, sustainability?
Bloomberg hadn’t really focused on this before, truth be told, so it was giving a focus - and I had experience in this.
LBB> How have brand partnerships evolved since you took the helm with Bloomberg live?
Stephen> The whole notion of user-generated content and mass reach - that’s all history. Brands want to be associated with trusted, credible, researched content, they want to be in that environment, no matter what category of business you’re talking about. They want to align with robust content on that topic. Increasingly in the Bloomberg ecosystem, that’s content which is purpose-driven and aligned with ESG components. With Bloomberg Green, Bloomberg Citylab, and obviously Bloomberg Equality - and some other initiatives - brands want to be associated with these. People who really know what they’re talking about and are delivering insights and solutions with a clear perspective.
Video is front and centre. We launched Bloomberg Quicktake as a much broader network for the modern business leaders compared to Bloomberg TV which is very responsibly focused on the finance world. But also on the commercial and advertising side we have really invested in Bloomberg Media Studios which is our custom content which was up 50% in 2022. Last year was massive growth in terms of custom content and that’s because companies realise that video is important and they want to get the storytelling out with Bloomberg because we create great content and use a lot of data, tapping into the Bloomberg machine. It is a global growth area for us.
LBB> The pandemic forced many people and many companies to start doing things differently while adjusting to shifting consumer behaviour. How, if at all, did you adapt your commercial strategy during and following the pandemic?
Stephen> One of the things that covid brought to the centre was the inequality of the world, not just in terms of racism but even dealing with covid, the unfairness surrounding it. We’re covering all of that through the things I’ve mentioned earlier, and it's ever expanding - Bloomberg Green; TV shows, podcasts, radio shows, a magazine.
During the pandemic we made Bloomberg resources available to our clients as much as possible. So we organised for our industry experts within Bloomberg Intelligence to speak to our client companies, whether it be airlines or consumer goods companies. We’d bring them in and they’d do a one hour update on what they were seeing from the Bloomberg terminal.
We did a big research paper of advertising and marketing during a recession and distributed and presented that. We created a CMO network called Bloomberg X, which is a membership of the world’s CMOs, and we provided virtual gatherings with A-list speakers, top people, speaking about a whole range including DE&I, for them to hear and have open conversations about. Those became really successful virtually and they’re continuing.
We were doing what we were expected to do, making ourselves available for our clients with all the resources we had and we did it successfully because our business has grown tremendously. Post-pandemic we moved to hybrid events and having that TV-quality production for people who aren't in the room, that wasn’t there for any events, pre-pandemic.
One of the benefits of virtual events was that they could be global. Before, if we had a Bloomberg Invest London - it was mostly Europeans - but Bloomberg Invest Global was truly global. We were seeing people get up in the middle of the night to tune in virtually. People love being back together now though, you can feel the energy and how much people love networking.
LBB> In the attention economy, rage (and other unsavoury emotions) gets clicks. How does a reputable news source compete with the fake and the outrageous? What effect does this have on advertisers?
Stephen> We’re just not in that world. If you think of the responsibility of Bloomberg, we are read and viewed by a lot of the people who are making daily decisions on the global markets and economy, they’re coming to us. This expands out to other executives and influencers the world over. The responsibility that Bloomberg has (hence the large staff we have) to provide objective, fact-based updates and insights on what's happening in the world across all the things that matter is huge. Back in the day, when it was all about UGC (use generated content) and sensationalism, Bloomberg was still doing what it's doing now, we haven't changed at all, but we are now what everybody wants. Our brands know it's so important to work with us, they say we’re the one media company that they know they’re going to be safe with because our rigour is best in class.
There’s certainly a leaning in appetite from marketers for what Bloomberg stands for. We publish 5000 stories per day, we have 2700 journalists, such a breadth of content and opportunities that we’re offering. Whilst they’re covering the latest news, they’re also covering deeper storytelling, insights and solutions. Because we have so many journalists around the world - we're very fortunate with these resources - it means when something's happening, we get perspective to the stories from different people.
LBB> Recently, Bloomberg announced the launch of a standalone UK-focused venture, which the marketplace has called ‘brave’ thanks to the UK’s tough news market and now a worsening macroeconomic climate. Can you discuss this move and the reasoning behind it?
Stephen> It’s a long play, with a long time frame, we’d been working on it for about a year. It felt like there was a need, an opportunity, for Bloomberg to produce more focused content for the leaders and influencers in the UK market. It felt like there was something missing in terms of objective, pure data-driven, not left wing, not right wing - just pure facts. So we found the opportunity to do that and that’s what we’ve done. We are pretty robust in the UK as an organisation. We’ve been headquartered in London for a long time and have hundreds of journalists on the ground. So it’s more about adding a focus to the UK market, nothing more complicated than that.
We’re certain there’s a need for this. It’s also a multiplatform expansion - it’s not just digital, it’s TV shows, events, a podcast, newsletter. We do feel that there’s a gap in the market. Even with the economic downturn, our European business is thriving and it’s the fastest growing region compared to America, the Middle East, and APAC. We can attribute the growth to brand safety, the breadth of content on offer and therefore the marketing alignment opportunities that Bloomberg offers. We’ve been working to actively raise and broaden people’s understanding of Bloomberg and the solutions we have, which means more companies from a broader range of industries are coming to work with us in Europe.
LBB> With such a large global footprint and different mediums Bloomberg’s news and content can be consumed through (videos, podcasts, events, etc.), what’s the company’s approach to production? How much is done in-house versus through external partners?
Stephen> For the TV networks, podcasts and radio stations, that's all in-house production. The TV set up in our London office is tremendous. We’re a network media company so we have full service production. But for Bloomberg Media Studios, we use third parties around the world. That was obviously challenging during the pandemic. We managed to still create a lot of award-winning videos and content, and in these cases we were dialling in remotely, and directing from afar.
LBB> Could you explain a little bit more about Bloomberg Media Studios and what kind of content you're producing there?
Stephen> That’s the custom content which can be anything from working with Chicago Mercantile Exchange (short videos for social) to a TV show called The CFO Show (Chief Future Officer), which is a longform 20-minute show that goes out on BTV. It's a whole gamut, from content for airlines and car companies to financial institutions.
LBB> Do you use those same in-house production facilities to create your own advertising and marketing content?
Stephen> We have a marketing team and a lot of it is done in house. We tap into that central marketing at Bloomberg and all their resources. We also have a dedicated marketing team within Bloomberg Media, with a lot of the work taking place in-house. We don’t print in-house but we do own our own printers. So Bloomberg Green - our magazine - is printed by us, on recycled paper.
LBB> Bloomberg operates on a subscription model, limiting the number of articles that can be read for free. How do you communicate the value in Bloomberg’s work and continue to drive subscribers in existing and new markets?
Stephen> It all comes down to the value you offer, the value proposition. If people feel that a new book is worth it because it's going to provide something meaningful, then they’ll rush out and spend £20 on it without thinking. With Bloomberg, the business leaders and influencers in that sphere see the value in subscribing to a massive, robust content feed as delivered by us because we’re providing something valuable that they need. People can experience Bloomberg’s content in so many formats. We obviously have a paywall on our digital products, like many others. We’ve got Bloomberg Quicktake, Bloomberg TV, we’ve got newsletters, radio stations, linear TV - a lot of content is out there to educate, inform and enable viewers and readers to build a rich understanding of and relationship with Bloomberg.
When it comes to driving new subscribers, the traditional marketing route works - direct marketing through our own and third-party platforms. Cannes is a newer opportunity for us and we’re excited to step into a space at the intersection of business, culture, and innovation.
LBB> Am I right in thinking you are heading to the Cannes Lions Festival for the first time this year? Why do you feel it’s important to be there in person in 2022? How important is it for the creative and media industries to celebrate, award, and push the creative envelope?
Stephen> This is the first time that Bloomberg will have a presence at Cannes Lions and we’re really excited about it. We have four days of programming for all the different clients. We’re holding CMO workshops; events for our advertising partners, and business leaders. One of the conversations will be with the legends Lee Clow and David Droga, all about creativity and the art of media, to showcase a documentary that’s been made about Lee and the creative differences between East and West Coast creativity.
I’m excited to spend time at Bloomberg Media’s ESG House, meet with everyone, and listen to all the great talks we have scheduled. We have an incredible roster of people giving talks - a lot of work went into that.
It’s hugely important for the creative and the wider community to convene and for the work to be recognised. It’s fantastic to be back in person this year. I think we’ll see a huge turnout from across the industry. I believe that Cannes Lions is bigger now than the Cannes Film Festival, and it's going to be bigger this year, which will be reflected in the global coverage. This to me reflects the importance of the convening that’s happening.