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Can Joe Weisenthal Change Bloomberg Before Bloomberg Changes Him?

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The hyperactive financial news addict made Business Insider a major destination for business news. His new challenge: Make Bloomberg’s insular news operation a hit on the web.

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When Bloomberg Digital was looking for an internet-friendly face to connect its financial data and news system to the online masses, its editor Josh Topolsky had one name in mind. And he got him.

Joe Weisenthal, formerly the executive editor of Business Insider, “literally might have been the first name I mentioned,” Topolsky said. “Putting Joe at the mouth of the river of the flood of news is an exciting and crazy prospect.”

Weisenthal started his new job last Monday. To a company best known for its sober editorial style and monochrome data terminals, he brings an altogether different voice: Over-the-top, all-caps headlines, hyperactive tweeting, and outspoken opinions about who is on the right and wrong side of contentious economic debates.

That combination was integral to Business Insider's evolution from a scrappy, aggregation-friendly startup to one of the web's best-known sources of business news. But it's a distinctly different style to the work currently being done by Bloomberg's 2,400-person news operation, which largely follows The Bloomberg Way, a strict and documented formula for writing the news.

More than 320,000 subscribers pay around $ 2,000 a month to access Bloomberg's near-endless pool of financial data and news via its terminals. That's where the majority of the company's estimated $ 8 billion in revenue comes from, and few see the new online efforts by Bloomberg Digital — part of the consumer-facing Bloomberg Media division — as likely to make a dent in that.

“Bloomberg is pretty well-saturated for markets coverage and adding a new markets-focused product really makes me wonder who the target audience is going to be for this,” said Chris Roush, a business journalism professor at the University of North Carolina who runs the website Talking Biz News. “There's definitely some tension between the core Bloomberg News operations and Bloomberg Media,” he said. “I think a lot of people on the Bloomberg News side don't understand what's going on at Bloomberg Media and feel a little slighted.”

Weisenthal will run Bloomberg Markets, new financial markets website, and have his own TV show. The new projects come as part of a plan by Bloomberg Media boss Justin Smith to build a suite of web properties with a readership far beyond the typical terminal subscriber.

Smith was hired to lead Bloomberg Media in mid-2013, after successfully turning The Atlantic, a genteel and loss-making periodical founded in 1857, into a profitable family of digital media sites. At Bloomberg, he said in a March memo, he aims to create “a portfolio of new digital assets that better align our content offerings to global business audience segments.”

The first of these projects to launch was Bloomberg Politics, a site headed by star reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, which publishes stories by its own staffers as well from the core Bloomberg News operation. It also runs a 30-minute daily TV show.

Bloomberg Politics, Topolsky said, is “an example of us reaching out and seeing a bigger picture, that's vital to our audience.” But some question whether the company's financial markets coverage needs a new presentation layer to reach its target market.


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