the fading of Bloomberg Radio

first ESPN…

Over the Thanksgiving holiday my older son pointed out to me that family friend, John Koblin, had written a critical article for Deadspin on how ESPN has gradually lost its journalistic way as it chases television ratings.

The example John focusses on is the network’s apparent obsession with New York Jets football player, Tim Tebow–a legendary college football figure who appears to be the latest in the parade of Heisman Trophy quarterbacks not quite good enough to make it in the NFL.

How is Tebow a continuing story?  ESPN2’s unsuccessful morning show First Take switched format in late 2011.  The new look:  …a staged debate between two cartoonish figures who duel in vintage WWF fashion over some item of sports news.  Their favorite topic:  Tebow.

ESPN discovered that the new First Take was surprisingly popular, even taking audience share away from its mainline morning show, Sportscenter.  It reacted in two ways:

–more phony debates all over the network, complete with loud voices, exaggerated gestures and bombast, and

–Tim Tebow all the time, no matter what the ostensible topic of a given show.

I’m of two minds about this ESPN development.  As a holder of DIS shares I guess I should approve.  As a sports fan, I’ve got to find other sources of sports information and analysis.

…now Bloomberg

Yesterday I was on my way in the car to Delaware and turned on the Bloomberg Radio morning broadcast for the first time in a while.  Five years ago I used to listen every day, either live or through podcasts of important segments.  No longer.  As Bloomberg dialed down the information content and dialed up the reporter self-congratulation I began to look elsewhere.

Anyway, I caught the last part of The First Word, with Ken Prewitt, who strikes me as the only savvy professional journalist left on Bloomberg.  Then came Bloomberg Surveillance, which appears to have had a format tweaking since the last time I listened.  Mr. Prewitt is gone (…or maybe he was just taking a day off from the insanity).  What remains is a veritable First Take of loud voices and self-congratulatory glorification of trivia.

To my mind, this can’t be an accident.  The radio personalities must have been trained, à la ESPN, to speak louder, create fake “debate” and constantly tell the audience how important the topics–and the radio hosts themselves–are.

And, as with First Take, the quest for higher ratings is the most likely explanation, with Fox News and CNBC as the models.  It’s probably also cheaper to simply act as if you’re conveying relevant information rather than to do the research and analysis needed to create it.

The written Bloomberg news appears not to have been infected by this broadcast tendency.  I figure the investment professionals who pay $30,000 a year or more for Bloomberg terminals wouldn’t put up with the stuff that’s now on Bloomberg Radio.

Where is the real financial news today?  It’s in newspapers like the Financial Times  and the Wall Street Journal.  And, like sports, it’s in the blogosphere.

We may mourn the loss of Bloomberg Radio as an information source, and the fact that the search for relevant stock market information is somewhat more difficult without it.  But this also means that insights we may develop are that much more valuable–because they are less likely to have been fully disseminated into the market at the time we figure them out.

24 responses

  1. I’ve noticed several recent trends:

    1) new people on surveillance who talk more about their shoe shopping habits than anything interesting – they really detract from the show. … and they are constantly interrupting and speaking over the other hosts with their trivial observations. They seem to be trying to mix up the Ken Prewitt/Tom Keane formula – and failing each time.

    2) more “opinion spots” that are supposedly opinions of other independent people but seem to match the views of Michael Bloomberg (more liberal viewpoints with conservative viewpoints squelched). Example: repeated Margaret Carlson commentaries that reflect only the most liberal viewpoints – I’m not hearing the alternative viewpoints.

  2. I too have noticed a vastly more political presentation lately from US Bloomberg TV/Radio. The first warning sign was when the late Margaret Brennan could be seen unconsciously nodding to Al Hunt’s talking points, followed by the explosion of Charlie Rose’s ‘fair and balanced’ interviews with democrats of all stripes, aired at all hours, Kathleen Hays’ giving us all we need to know, with her policy of only having guests who are Ivy League faculty members, or in lockstep with them, and NOW we get the Bloomberg Editorials. You should listen to these beauties! Margaret Hearts HRC!

  3. Did y’all hear the Nov. 1 broadcast where Ken literally could not put a sentence together? I wish I knew what was wrong.

  4. ONCE AND FOR ALL: Will someone please explain what happened to Ken Prewitt? I can’t stand Tom Keene, but even his pompous arrogance was tolerable when teamed with Prewitt.

  5. Prewitt was of the old school, balanced, skeptical, wry and with one of the best radio voices around, and most importantly he keeped Keene’s ego in check. As a team they were great. I joked to friends that they were –and I mean this in the best way–the Bob & Ray of Bloomberg Radio. Since his (temporary?) departure, “Surveillance” has become The Tom Keene Show. It’s awful, shrill, shallow, and I can’t be the only one who has stopped listening.
    In any event, I can only assume it’s a health issue, and I certain wish Mr. Prewitt the best of health.

  6. Another admirer of Ken Prewitt. I found him several years ago on the internet. I am no authority but I was struck by his succinct style. He was smart and fast asking just the right questions. They just rolled off his tongue. No display of ego even though he was “stop you in your tracks” good. I miss him.

  7. I too am a big Ken Prewitt fan (and wonder where he is) and I bemoan, more and more, the ritzing-up of the Bloomberg tv/radio product. The old-school approach worked best. If I hear Betty Liu say “exclusive” one more time, I’m going to crack.

  8. I have been listening to Bloomberg radio on BIZ Radio 1190 in Atlanta since it started 2 or 3 years ago. In the beginning the Ken Prewitt and Tom Keene show was very informative and very beneficial in getting the up to date financial info. However it has continued to go down hill, especially when Ken Prewitt went off the air back in the fall. Tom Keen is insufferable, with all his “inside baseball remarks, dependence on “Ivy league” guests and exclusive liberal political views. The everyday comments from Arthur Levitt, makes me hit the change the channel button as soon as I hear his “democrate only views”.

  9. Of course Bloomberg is acting and not thinking. The largest business program on air is actually Marketplace and its portfolio. I must say I’m a fan of their reporting

    • Thanks for your comment. What I find really odd is that Bloomberg Radio continues to advertise Mr. Prewitt as the host of its Surveillance morning program almost a year after his going on leave.

  10. Here’s the podcast from Friday November 9, 2012, which was the last time Ken was on the air

    “BNY’s Derrick Says Risk Aversion Pushing Dollar Higher (Audio)

    Nov 9, 2012

    Simon Derrick, chief currency strategist at Bank of New York Mellon Corp. in London, says the fact that the dollar and the yen have been performing well over the past week “is quite telling.” Derrick talks with Bloomberg’s Ken Prewitt on Bloomberg Radio’s “Bloomberg – The First Word.”

    [audio src="http://media.bloomberg.com/bb/avfile/News/First_Word/vjki.8dXm2u8.mp3" /]

    • Yes, I heard Tom Keene mention in the morning something to the effect that Ken Prewitt had stopped by at some event the prior night, and that it was good to see him.

    • Yes, I heard Tom Keene mention one morning that Ken Prewitt had stopped by at some event the prior day, and that it was good to see him. No further details were provided.

  11. I have a different perspective on Tom Keene and Ken Prewitt. I recall Ken being more cynical and actually a bit dull when it came to questions, ala “What does that mean for next year’s profits?” Tom Keene may be verbose and self-important, I do like his quips about getting too deep in the weeds to the point that 5 drivers just drove off the road in Boston. Ken’s replacement is competent, but not too much fun to listen to. Over a long show with lots of heavy economic or financial data/issues, you need someone to take their foot off the gas and introduce some distraction. I think Tom Keene fills that role as well as being much more financially literate and fluent than Ken Prewitt ever was.

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