Monday, October 23, 2006

Reuters Swims for High-Margin Markets as Bloomberg Treads Water

Mike Bloomberg opined recently that he's not in the mood to cash out from Bloomberg, LP, saying "I have complete confidence that the best days for the Company still lie ahead" - though he was quick to add that he looked forward to focusing the benefits of his cash cow on his philanthropic interests. But while Bloomberg continues to be a source of innovation in the financial information industry its long-time focus on its desktop services seems to be counter to the growing trend towards automated trading overwatched by a handful of top-level analysts and managers. With widespread trading position cutbacks expected in London's City trading district next year the trends would seem to favor Reuters at this point, which has been positioning itself to be a winner on both ends of this spectrum. So as The Times Online reports Reuters is absorbing a 25 percent decline in desktop position sales it's absorbing most of that impact through a 20 percent rise in revenue from trading transaction support services.

It's a reminder to publishers that although workflow-oriented content services seems like a charmed path to higher revenues and margins it's a path fraught with problems. Integration of content from vendors focuses increasingly on integration that is either highly specialized for an elite few or integration so deeply embedded in an institution's plumbing that branding is of more of an IT-oriented level than that of a traditional electronic publisher. That's not all bad, but it's an outlook that may catch many enterprise-oriented publishers feeling caught rather short. Look at the revenue profile of Reuters, though, and you see a path to the future: high-end and automated premium services providing margins for the machines and the few information elites and media-supported services providing content for the corporate masses in between these extremes. Look at that model and memorize it: your shareholders will be doing so soon enough.
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