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Nov. 23, 2015, 10:11 a.m.
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Bloomberg TV’s What’d You Miss? thinks of linear TV as “a source of content for online video”

“I’m thinking less about the standard linear TV viewer, and more about how it’s going to play on multiple platforms, how it’s going to play on social.”

What’d You Miss? is a daily, hour-long show from Bloomberg TV that airs at the close of the U.S. markets, co-hosted now by Bloomberg’s Scarlet Fu, Alix Steel, and Joe Weisenthal. The show launched aiming to bring a little spunk and excitement to often dry financial news and data. “Don’t think German bunds, GDP revisions, and oil storage capacity constraints are interesting topics?” wrote Weisenthal, who a year ago left Business Insider, where he was executive editor and a founding member, for Bloomberg. “We want to convince you that they are, and that you should care.”

Bloomberg has done well expanding the reach of its online video offerings. After a revamp of its website, which includes a Bloomberg TV video player locked in at the top right of the navigation bar, its unique video visitors have gotten a big bump, recording 15.9 million unique visitors to video in September, by latest comScore measures. (“If digital video isn’t core to what you’re doing, that’s crazy to me,” Bloomberg’s then–top digital editor Joshua Topolsky told Nieman Lab earlier this year.)

Whatd-Miss-on-set-Bloomberg

“At Bloomberg, we’re trying to really nail the multi-platform opportunity,” Weisenthal said. “We have TV, we have the web, we have online video, which we invest a lot in, and we see TV, in large part, to be a source of content for online video.”

I spoke with Weisenthal about TV guests, social media, taking finance journalism beyond a wonky following, and podcasts. Below is a lightly condensed and edited version of our conversation.

Shan Wang: A long conversation with talking heads has the potential to be…really boring. To you, what makes for a good guest, then? Are there some guests who just translate better to the online video format?

Joe Weisenthal: One thing that I really prize is someone with a distinct point of view. Traditionally, in financial media, a lot of the same guests get recycled over and over again, and there are a lot of these standard Wall Street talking heads who say things that are very conservative. They try to avoid saying anything too interesting, anything that could come back on them and be wrong. So the ideal guests, for me, are people who are willing to come out with a point of view.

While I was in London a few weeks ago, I spoke with a hedge fund manager there named Toby Nangle, who has a very distinct idea: he bases his investing, in part, on a big theory he has about changing global demographics. He’s done some original research on how demographic changes are going to change the global economy, and he adjusted his portfolio.

If you look at a typical Wall Street interview, it might just be some strategist who recommends some stocks, and the stocks are kind of boring, or he’s talking up his book or something like that. I really like talking to someone with a distinct view, distinct research, a distinct call that will really stand out.

One of my favorite guests so far has been Lord Robert Skidelsky. He’s a member of the House of Lords, and he is also the most famous biographer of John Maynard Keynes, so talking to him is the closest thing we have to talking to the most legendary economist — he kind of channels Keynes.

So we have this brilliant thinker, and we can talk to him about the events of the day, such as what is the perspective on what’s going on in China, or the latest developments in monetary policy. It’s a great intersection of timely news stories with someone with a very distinct point of view, who really stands out from the other people talking about these subjects.

Wang: I admit I hadn’t watched the show before talking to you, but I also don’t really watch financial TV in general. Has the sort of audience you were hoping for changed since you started the show?

Weisenthal: I’ve tried, really aggressively, to appeal to people online who consume financial media. I’ve been active on Twitter for years and I have a really good sense of what people who are in the online finance community are interested in, and what they’re talking about at any given time.

So when I think about who the ideal audience for the show is, or what’s the reaction that I want the show to have, or who do I want to like the show — it’s a lot of the people who’ve been commenting and talking on social media and blogs for a long time. That’s a big point of what we try to accomplish, getting our segment to resonate with those people.

I get a lot of good feedback. I see people responding to the show in real time. I get a lot of emails from people while I’m on the air, saying, ‘You should ask this question,’ and I may do it.

This is one of the nice things about having Bloomberg Terminal and the whole network of people on the terminal who we can communicate with while we’re on the show. When I think about the show, I’m thinking less about the standard linear TV viewer, and more about how it’s going to play on multiple platforms, how it’s going to play on social.

Wang: Do you feel as if the show is starting to attract a new, different set of viewers, beyond those who would normally read Bloomberg or watch other Bloomberg TV segments?

Weisenthal: I see people who are talking about the clips that we’ve done but who perhaps never talk about TV financial news. They’re mostly people who talk about blogs and other stuff on the web, and now they’re talking about things we’ve done on our show. In that regard, I think we’re reaching new people.

Wang: How does the show interact with the rest of Bloomberg’s offerings? How do you share content? Do you use a lot of the same sources?

Weisenthal: One of the whole reasons for me to be here is the amazing breadth and depth of resources. We always base a segment on stories that Bloomberg News reported. Bloomberg News has thousands of people around the world, so there’s an incredible range of knowledge that people have here. Reporters and editors from Bloomberg News come on the show from time to time, so we have a chance to really focus on these stories.

We use the terminal aggressively throughout the show. We go into the terminal quite a lot, in order to demonstrate all the data, the charting capabilities that it has. So we’re constantly drawing on the resources of Bloomberg News. That’s one of the things that helps the show stand out.

We have the terminal set up so that any one of us can pull up a chart during the show and put it up on the whole screen and display it to the audience, really making the conversation come alive.

Wang: What sorts of live feedback do you get? How do you incorporate that?

Weisenthal: I check Twitter a lot during the breaks to see what people are saying. That’s a gauge to me of how things are resonating. Because I have the terminal open, people email me during the show and I can see what they’re saying. Having a back-and-forth conversation is one of the best aspects of the show.

Speaking of social media, I’ve found a lot of our guests from the people I’ve followed on social media for a long time. I noticed that there was a gap between, say, a person online who I really loved reading because they’re super smart about housing, or they’re super smart about interest rates, and then the same old guests on TV, that no one was really paying attention to.

When I started getting into TV, I said, why don’t we have all those people I follow online, who are smart about certain subjects, come on the show? And now some of them have come on multiple times. Those segments resonate because our audience knows those people; they represent a fresh voice.

Wang: Who’s someone you found that way?

Weisenthal: This guy in California named Bill McBride who runs a blog called Calculated Risk. He was one of the best and greatest chroniclers of the housing market. He was talking about how the housing market was really in trouble as early as 2005. His blog was a must-read. On the way down, he also nailed the situation perfectly. And then, unlike a lot of the people who were calling for doom and gloom in 2009 and 2010, he started talking about the rebound of the economy.

I knew a lot of people on Wall Street were reading him, and he was just so good and so knowledgeable. But I could never understand why he wasn’t the go-to housing market analyst for all the media around the world! Why wasn’t he on TV every week? He really knew his stuff, and he was willing to change his mind as the facts changed — which is what you want from a pundit, so that they’re not just one single view.

We’ve had him on a couple of times now. There are so many opportunities like that, and I’d like us to do more like that on the show.

Wang: You came to Bloomberg from Business Insider — digital news, viral, but also doing much more reported stuff now. Now that you’ve had some experience of different approaches to financial journalism, is there something you see that is still missing in this field?

Weisenthal: I wish I knew exactly, then I would go do that. At Bloomberg, we’re trying to really nail the multi-platform opportunity. We have TV, we have the web, we have online video, which we invest a lot in, and we see TV, in large part, to be a source of content for online video. What I see is everyone trying really hard to do all of this — web, social, video, everything — and I don’t think anyone has totally cracked it yet. But it’s something we’re aggressively trying to do.

I think there’s an opportunity at Bloomberg, speaking of Business Insider. One of the things Business Insider does really well is that their social travels around the web fast, and they make a lot of stories accessible. There’s a lot more we can do in that regard.

On the other hand, Bloomberg can offer unparalleled sophistication because of how much data we have and how knowledgeable our writers and editors are about these specific topics. There’s an opportunity to marry those two things, where you get really good at the distribution, and really good at drawing people in who maybe didn’t think they were fans of business news, while also offering the most sophisticated analysis and reporting around. I think everyone can work on doing either side better. It’s not something missing, per se, it’s just an endless pursuit of these goals.

I don’t feel any pressure on the digital or TV side to get more viewers by dumbing down the content or being cheesy. There’s definitely no pressure to get readers or viewers just for numbers’ sake. But, of course, we want more people to consume our stuff, so we try to do it really well and put it on platforms where people are consuming content on.

Wang: When you work on the TV show, though, do you ever find yourself thinking about framing something into a shorter shareable segment that people can then throw around on Facebook or Twitter or wherever?

Weisenthal: Well, I love creating stuff that people want to share on Facebook. In fact, I do that every day — I have a daily video chart I call my “Killer Chart,” which is literally a 45-second Facebook native video where I sit in front of the terminal and talk about one chart that has my interest.

It’s the ultimate “snackable” piece of content. It’s fun, people like to share it, but it’s also really sophisticated because we can dive into the data and show something really interesting in the terminal that other people don’t have.

There’s no compromise where we turn down the quality or turn down the sophistication to go viral. Because we have all these resources and data, we can keep the sophistication really high, and also go viral and be snackable, as they say.

Wang: Speaking of other ways of distributing your content: You’ve launched a new podcast with Tracy Alloway, the Bloomberg Markets executive editor. Why are you adding podcasting to the video mix?

Weisenthal: Yes, Tracy and I are doing a weekly podcast called Odd Lots. Odd Lots is a phrase in finance that refers to trades that are an unusual size, so instead of buying, say, 100 shares, you buy 99 shares. It’s going to be one weekly, in-depth conversation with someone.

Coming from the TV show perspective, our show is long, but sometimes you just wish you could talk to someone forever. I’m looking forward to the podcast as a opportunity to, once a week, have an in-depth conversation with someone really fascinating. It’ll be on a range of topics, from markets to finance to economics. Tracy and I have eclectic interests, so I’m looking forward to experimenting in that medium.

I would not be surprised if we had topics that were even further afield from breaking news. Someone who has a very obscure, wonky, interest in something that’s not necessarily part of the day’s or week’s news cycle — maybe they’ve done some research into an area — that will be something the podcast is good for.

A lot of people like to consume news and other information via podcasts. I like listening to them, too. So I think it’ll be fun.

Photo by Charlie Phillips used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Nov. 23, 2015, 10:11 a.m.
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