EconFact 09/16: Buying Bloomberg Billions

It's not the Matrix

It’s not the Matrix


I think part of the obtuseness of working in “Finance” can be summed up by the Bloomberg Terminal. The terminal, the leading physical extension of financial data vending, surely pops into people’s minds when they think of “Finance”. 2-6 screens, a black background to display charts and tickers and acronyms and numbers whizzing in and out it is a the personification of a ‘black box’. It’s definitely not intuitive; there’s a test you can take to show that you are ‘qualified’ to maneuver its various functions. And yet, it’s one of the most useful things I have access to in my job.

People agree with me; there are over 300,000 terminals world wide and is a money making machine. You see, unlike traditional computers, you don’t buy the terminal; you rent it. With subscriptions fees around $1,500-2,000 a month per terminal it is a billion dollar revenue generator ($8 billion to be exact).

Part of the reason it’s been successful is because it’s really, really good. It provides real-time and historical information for anything I can think of, has a 24-7 live customer service that can entertain requests from “How do I make this kind of chart?” to more technical things and always has a sales representative check in with you and your subscription and it makes it easy for me to manipulate data however I want to. Also, it’s fast. No matter what the graph, function or feature, nothing every takes more than a few seconds if that so providing a sense of reassurance. As if to hammer that point home, the service has greatly expanded from just a data vendor to a media conglomerate having a real-time news ticker, Bloomberg live TV, website, radio, conferences, a standardized test  like the SATs for Finance. They understand what users want and it gives it to them in the most painless way possible.

The other reason is because of its success is that it rode the wave of analog to digital conversion and in the 1980s and bankers have not Wall Street-ers have not converted to any competitor. It’s been compared to challenging Facebook. Case in point; Thompson Reuters tried to launch their similar service in 2010 but only estimated to have less than one terminal every hundred Bloomberg terminals despite a billion dollars in research and marketing, a cleaner user interface and cheaper fees. But the problem with Reuters is that despite aesthetically looking better, it does the basic things wrong like long loading times and limited amounts of data.

Takeaway: Like the man himself, the Bloomberg terminal is an extension of the efficiency and ambition of the ’80s. And it spies on you.


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Called it: Twitter IPOs.

Questions? Comments? Compliments (much appreciated). Follow-up? Cool link, bro? Let me know🙂

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