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Niche news content works better in a digital world: Bloomberg Media chairman Andrew Lack

MUMBAI: As news channels and newspapers struggle with a business model in the new digital era, niche news content works better than general news sites. Newspapers are financially struggling and they will fight to retain top talent who might want to leave for their digital venture.

Andrew LackBloomberg Media Group chairman Andrew Lack made these remarks during an interview at the media trade event Frames organised by FICCI.

“As standalone profitable entities, niche specialised sites in areas like sports and technology are doing better than general interest sites. This is what the digital arena is doing,” Lack elaborated.

He, however, warned that it would not be easy for content creators in the news space to start making money in an era where one talks of digital dimes replacing analogue dollars. “Making money in digital is easier on the technology site where a company like WhatsApp is bought for billions.”

He noted that in the news business different models are emerging in a disruptive digital environment. “But nobody knows what the digital business model is.” Citing the example of MSNBC which was formed by NBC and Microsoft, he added, “It has worked well but it took a long time to get there, so content creators in the digital space have to be patient.”

He said that Microsoft founder Bill Gates expected convergence to happen in 2000. That was not the case. “We are now seeing convergence where one can see different TV content online on one screen. The business model is not known but we are getting there.”

When asked about people like Jeff Bezos buying newspapers with no background in news, Lack said that he had no issue with it. “When Jeff Bezos bought Washington Post, we were glad. Warren Buffett is buying local newspapers. What is important is that media owners have a passion for the business. Content creators often have a problem if their owners are not passionate about the product.”

There are also platforms in television and video creating original content or buying players. “Companies that are brilliant in distribution like Amazon.com find content acquisition pricey, so they create original content. When Netflix creates a great show like ‘House of Cards’, their aim is that more subscribers will come in and this will benefit their core business of distribution.”

With regard to Bloomberg, he said that the media company is driven by being influential through offering credible news. “We believe in accuracy of news first, not fast first. If we get news wrong by being fast first, we can only get away with it once or twice by offering an apology. After that, you lose credibility.”