Monday, April 26, 2010

Castles Under Siege

As my first post, I have been struggling with where to start. Over the past few weeks, there have been some interesting events inside - and outside - the industry which I believe will change the way information providers operate to remain successful.

Inside the industry, the biggest move arguably is the announcement of Bloomberg to not only allow freer use of their proprietary symbology by industry participants but also their agreement with the NYSE/Euronext for the exchange group to use the BSYM, effectively replacing the exchange's own ticker symbol for datafeeds. These moves put Bloomberg at the forefront for the effort standardize symbology that the industry has been requesting for decades. Could BSYM be that industry standard?

Staying with the Bloomberg theme, Google has hired ex-Bloomberg FX head, Philip Brittan to run their Google Finance franchise. This would seem to indicate Google's desire to revamp their finance portal and 'professionalize' the experience. As well, Bloomberg lured a former senior Product Manager from Google to the Bloomberg multimedia team to drive Bloomberg's web, TV and mobile properties.

Could a 'trade' of sorts occurred between these two firms? Who knows, but it does seem to foretell of a possible deal between Bloomberg and Google for Bloomberg news through Google. Earlier this year, Dow Jones entered into a limited exclusivity arrangement with Microsoft's Bing search engine. In this action, Dow Jones also 'decoupled' themselves from Google's search engines. A deal by Google for the same level of exclusivity with Bloomberg news makes a lot of sense for obvious reasons - especially if Google is redoing their finance page.

Dow Jones has been busy lately, not only tying into the Bing search engine but also securing a deal with Factset to deliver its DJ Investment Banking product through the Factset terminal. This deal makes sense too given after tying to push its own desktop properties, it appears Dow Jones is focusing on its core assets - news and information - and start using channels to generate revenue.

For Factset, they have had some success in the Investment Banking segment but nowhere near the same success they had in the Investment Management market. This deal with Dow Jones strengthens them against both Capital IQ and Thomson Reuters and could lead to strong growth. My sense is neither Factset nor Dow Jones are done and they will be active in the coming months. What's driving these actions I believe is the current siege on their fortified walled gardens from the trends in mobile computing and users wanting freer access to information.

Apple's iPhone and iPad successes are based on one simple fact - people want simple and easy way to access and use information that is important to them right now. The Apple app ecosystem (outside of the games) is a list of information providers that have used Apple's platform, interface and customer network to generate millions for themselves and Apple. Everything from wine ratings, to restaurant guides, to movie listings, to books and newspapers are all applications driven by information. Dow Jones and Bloomberg I believe clearly understand that putting their information behind high walls cuts them off from the far larger and potentially lucrative handset/mobile market. They seem to understand that the rules have changed. The see smaller information aggregators making headway into these markets at their expense. Through innovative partnerships, clear commercial strategy around free and premium, these two firms are adapting to the changes in user behaviours and are seizing the opportunities mobile computing offers them.

It remains to be seen if this will pan out in the longer term for these firm since there is a catch - a trojan horse if you will - in mobile computing. More on that my next post....

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