The boundaries between financial reporting, in-depth
analysis and independent commentary are becoming
increasingly blurred. Business and financial comment
is proliferating, particularly online, and is establishing
itself in the mainstream of general news.
Commoditized news and the breakneck speed of competitive reporting have become important realities in the new media world. Another significant change is the rise of the so-called commentariat, or punditocracy, a development which has presented both a huge challenge and an exciting opportunity for communicators.
What is at stake here is not just the growing impact of views in the blogosphere but the way the mainstream print and broadcast media are now responding to financial events through news and commentary. The same people who report and break the day’s leading financial stories are often expected to tell audiences what to think about them.
Our analysis of the issues highlights some significant variations between regions – notably the United States, Europe and China, as discussed below – but the overall message is clear. Companies everywhere need to engage with a new breed of writers who may crunch their own numbers, speak to executives on background and care little for officially sanctioned comments. The rules of engagement are changing, and a wider range of journalists, commentators and other pundits are shaping the agenda.
United Kingdom’s pioneering role
Financial commentary has been a central part of the financial media in the UK for many years – but in the past it almost always focused on specific comment sections such as the columns of financial or business editors of daily or weekly papers, or more specialist investor-based columns such as Lex and Tempus. All have long traditions of daily commentary on news stories, as opposed to the weekly columnists whose output is more akin to that of political sketch writers.
Comment writers themselves were generally separate from daily news journalists. That, however, is now changing on many newspapers in response to cost saving pressures and competition to turn instant news into instant reviews.
The UK pioneered online comment through the creation of Breakingviews, whose dedicated comment journalists have been syndicated in print all over the world. Now Reuters is developing a commentary service with a clear sense of global ambition. The Financial Times has also responded by recreating its Lombard column and the genuinely new FT Alphaville.
America’s new punditocracy
The rise of a financial punditocracy is a new phenomenon for the US, where for decades reporters did not venture into columnists’ territory and columnists rarely broke news. Now, a virtual army of financial journalists, bloggers and commentators may weigh in on a company or sector at any given time.
US financial commentary has mushroomed in the past 18 months, with the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Dow Jones all jumping into the game. Bloomberg runs comment by both contract and staff writers, and wants to run more op-eds by “big names.” The New York Times runs columns by Breakingviews, hosts blogs written by outside lawyers and economists, and gives its own leading columnists top play. Even The New Yorker has a business blog, as does The Atlantic magazine. The range of financial commentary reflects the diverse backgrounds of those providing it, with growing numbers of commentators coming from the ranks of finance and consulting rather than traditional journalism.