INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MEDIA: THE EDITORIAL LINE - International business media target demanding audiences with dynamic needs. James Curtis examines the key issues

BBC World

BBC World

BBC World is yet to equal its famous parent, BBC World Service, and is

still a small player on the international news front compared with


However, where CNN may be criticised sometimes for looking at world

events through US eyes, BBC World has strived to bring a global agenda

to its news coverage. Peter Eustace, an assistant editor on BBC World,

says the channel is popular with expatriate and travelling Britons, but

argues that this increases the need for it to be internationally

focused. ’British people often have a more global outlook than

Americans, so we try to reflect that in the coverage,’ he explains.

Its business coverage is produced in New York, London and Delhi, and it

is looking at increasing its local production to improve its

international perspective. BBC World’s business output is greatly

bolstered by the BBC’s much-praised website, which has one of the best

business information resources on the web.


Bloomberg TV produces ten business channels and broadcasts in seven


Output for Europe, the Middle East and Africa is produced from London,

while programming for the US, South America and Asia is produced from

the US.

Bloomberg TV, whose central plank is ’money markets and more’, is

targeted at people interested in money rather than strictly financial


During the day, much of the coverage is reaction to and analysis of

market information and, in the evenings, the focus is on personal

finance and money management.

However, it does provide more sophisticated financial information in

Bloomberg Magazine, which is distributed to all subscribers to the

Bloomberg information service, namely financial professionals. The

magazine started as a tool for updating users on improvements to the

service but has since expanded into more issue-driven editorial. It also

publishes a magazine called Bloomberg Money, which targets private


Business Week

As a weekly, Business Week has the edge on Fortune and Forbes when it

comes to news and rapid analysis. John Rossant, European editor, sees

The Economist as ’my toughest competitor’ and, like The Economist,

Business Week pitches itself at opinion formers in business, academia

and government.

Rossant has recently been appointed as European editor with a brief to

carve out a distinct personality for the European edition of the


At present, the magazine has a circulation of around one million in the

US and 180,000 outside. Rossant wants to customise the Europe edition,

using European columnists and star writers.

Business Week is best known for its in-depth coverage of technology and

the net economy. ’We pride ourselves on being the first to say that IT

had replaced industry as the driving force of the US economy,’ Rossant

says. ’We now want to be to e-business what we have been to business so



CNBC’s strategy has been to decentralise its programme production from

the US, meaning that everything is made by CNBC in Asia and Europe. As a

result, it has a strong non-US following - mostly business travellers in

their 40s.

The business output is varied and charismatic compared with CNN, with

features like Squawk Box, an unscripted discussion forum featuring

senior businessmen in the news. It has the tone of a boisterous sports

show and is attracting increasingly big names.

One third of the channel’s viewers are CEO level.

With backing from Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, CNBC has

excellent resources at its disposal. Specialist ’beat reports’

throughout the week cover different business sectors, with WSJ reporters

drafted in for briefings.

’It gives us the credibility our audience demands,’ Chris Graves,

director of programming at CNBC, says. ’We do it with wit and

personality. Some of the other channels look like they need emergency

resuscitation. ’

The channel balances this high-level expertise with imported US comedy

in the evenings and wall-to-wall golf at the weekends.

CNN International

Still the clear leader among international news providers, CNNI is at

its best during a war, a scandal or a celebrity trial. The Gulf War and

the OJ Simpson trial helped CNN build an enviable reputation for

up-to-the-second reporting. CNN may not be the most objective source of

news, but it is often the first on the scene.

In Europe, it gets around six million viewers per week. That’s a million

more than Euronews, 3.5 times as many as BBC World and four times as

many as CNBC. It also attracts 75 per cent more international air

travellers than its rivals.

Tony Maddox, managing editor of the channel’s European, African and

Middle Eastern output, says the core audience comprises chairmen, CEOs

and managing directors - a surprising 75 per cent of whom watch from

home and not a hotel room. It provides around 32 hours of business

coverage a week, drawing on feeds from CNN bureaux worldwide.

Maddox says people watch CNN because it brings its fast-reaction news

values to business and pulls in big names for comment and analysis. It

aims to be authoritative without being po-faced and is making more

effort to tailor content to local markets in order to dispel beliefs

that its agenda is too US-driven.

The Economist

The Economist is widely regarded as one of the most intelligent and

influential weeklies in the world. It is unashamedly high-brow and makes

no concessions to populism or fashion, in content or design. As the

publisher, David Hanger, says: ’We assume we are writing for the most

brilliant readers.’ The result is that the magazine is superbly

aspirational: people want to be seen to be reading it, even if they

don’t understand it.

The absence of bylines means there is no scope for personal views to be

aired or for individual writers to be puffed up: everything follows The

Economist line.

Traditionally, it is libertarian (in favour of legalising cannabis, for

example) but occasionally goes against its own values, especially where

the US is concerned. During the Vietnam war, it continued to support US

intervention long after popular opinion had turned and its ’Just Go’

cover featuring President Clinton after the Lewinsky affair was seen as

a gross misreading of the public mood.

It is at its most idiosyncratic in the placement of editorials at the

front, but settles into in-depth, impressively wide-ranging reporting of

global finance and economics towards the back. It has a truly global

profile, with non-UK sales accounting for 82 per cent of its 700,000



Having struggled after its launch in 1993, Euronews has greatly improved

since ITN took operational control in 1997. Its immediate point of

difference is that it is a multilingual news channel, broadcasting in

five languages to 43 countries.

It has a deeper reach into audiences than its English-only compe-titors

and, according to EMS audience data, has increased daily reach by 30 per

cent since last year. Among high earners, it is the most popular

pan-European news channel in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

The managing director, Martyn Wheatley, says the channel is ’made by

Europeans for Europeans’ and interprets the news for its impact on


Because it is not a dedicated business channel, it offers a varied menu

to its diverse audience. Feeding these interests, in five different

languages, is its biggest challenge. But it seems to be working.

’The other pan-European channels are often seen as being too Anglo-Saxon

or too US-influenced, so Euronews is a welcome point of difference for

viewers and advertisers,’ Nikola Blagg, deputy managing director of

Carat International, says.

Financial Times

The only British newspaper that sells more than the Financial Times

abroad is The Sun and that’s down to the British tourist invasion of the

southern coast of Spain.

The FT’s coverage is resolutely internationalist, with the splashes of

insular UK rivals often relegated to the inside pages. ’The FT is

deliberately steering in exactly the opposite direction (to other

media),’ its editor, Peter Lambert, writes about FT journalism. ’We will

succeed by becoming more outward-looking rather than by concentrating on

our own backyard.’

In Europe, where it sells 122,000 copies daily, the paper is well ahead

of its main global rival, The Wall Street Journal. However, in the US

and Asia, it lags, although the deputy editor, Peter Martin, says its

coverage of the Japan crisis helped it edge ahead of the WSJ in that


Compared with its business rivals, the FT has particularly strong arts

and lifestyle coverage, which mainly appears in the weekend edition.

Martin says the FT won’t increase the weekday lifestyle content because

’people resent being deflected from their business’.

So, when the time comes for its readers to let their hair down on

Saturdays, the FT becomes a different paper. It has just launched a

colour supplement, The Business, serving up a slick mix of interviews,

analysis, arts, travel and quirky lifestyle features. According to the

weekend FT editor, Julia Cuthbertson, it is aimed at younger, more

entrepreneurial readers, who she says are ’alley cats with ambition,

rather than fat cats’.


Like Fortune, Forbes has a penchant for beauty-parading the fabulously

rich through vehicles like the Forbes 400 Richest Americans. But,

considering that it started in 1917 with the mission statement to be

’the quintessential capitalist tool’, you can’t accuse it of not

sticking to its brand values.

The launch, 18 months ago, of Forbes Global Business and Finance, has

given a brand new reach, and circulation of the global edition has risen

from 50,000 last year to 85,000 this year. The editor, Lawrence Minard,

says this involves putting the US edition’s content ’through the global

meat grinder’ plus adding some original content.

The magazine has a reputation for quirkiness and irreverence, although

it is also thought to be an ’older’ read than Fortune. This probably

derives from its traditional strength in investment and stock market


Its tips on stocks to buy and sell occasionally send waves through Wall


The quirky reputation may derive from its policy not to give editorial

staff ’beats’ on specialist sectors, which can result in some

unconventional lateral thinking in its feature-led coverage. It is also

known for no holds barred attacks on companies whose performance it

doesn’t rate.


Most famous for its Fortune 500 league of top-performing companies,

Fortune has an established reputation as the chosen read of the

fast-track entrepreneur.

The magazine is working harder to attract the younger business reader

and, according to one observer, it is ’trying to be the Vanity Fair of


In the Fortune world, however, there is only one thing that makes you

sexy and trendy, and that is making lots of money. The magazine is keen

on looking at success in terms of leagues, whether it is ’America’s 40

richest under 40’ or the ’Fortune fastest-growing companies’. In a world

where money is fashion, it is not surprising that the magazine enjoys

analysing the personalities and cultures that make businesses tick.

The London bureau chief, Janet Guyon, says her target reader is ’a

globe-trotting, Fortune 500 CEO’. With only 20 per cent of its 154,000

circulation going outside North America, the magazine has a distinctly

US slant, although it does have editions tailored for the European and

Asian markets, and strives to take a global view on business issues.

International Herald Tribune

The Paris-based International Herald Tribune has 15 printing sites

worldwide and appears in 180 countries in European, Asian and US

editions. Along with the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal,

the paper offers truly global coverage but is not business focused,

aiming instead to provide a balanced snapshot of world news in a thin,

20-page format.

Like the WSJ and FT, the paper targets influential frequent travellers,

82 per cent of whom are senior managers. It dedicates around half of its

content to business and finance, but even its non-business coverage, has

an eye on how ’macro issues affect micro decisions’, as a spokesman puts


Owned by the Washington Post and The New York Times, the IHT has access

to a formidable news-gathering network, although some argue that this

gives it an overly US feel for a supposedly international title. The

European edition’s sports section, devoted to baseball and NFL football,

does little to dispel this impression.


There are few airport newsstands in the world that don’t stock Newsweek,

and if you happen to be in Russia, South Korea, Japan or South America,

you also have the choice of a local language edition. As a result,

Newsweek feels like a heavy international hitter, even if 73 per cent of

its circulation is in the US.

Although many readers may have difficulty spotting the difference

between Newsweek and its larger direct competitor, Time, the London

bureau chief, Stryker McGuire, says there are key points of difference:

’Newsweek is less predictable and institutionalised than Time. I don’t

know which one of us has made the right decision, but they tend to speak

with a single Time voice, while we push individual writers more. We like

to have a lot of voices in the magazine and I like to think it makes us

more idiosyncratic and confrontational.’

The other big difference, McGuire says, is that Time varies its

editorial by region much more than Newsweek. Newsweek is more

consistent, with the only regional changes being the reordering of

content, the occasional unique interview and different covers.

Its political and business coverage is influential in Mexico and South

America but less so in Europe. McGuire says the magazine has a good

record for setting news agendas, claiming its ’London Rules’ cover was

the first magazine splash on the Cool Britannia phenomenon. It also

broke the Nazi Gold story and it was the first non-UK magazine to

feature Tony Blair on its cover, in 1996.

Reuters TV

The vast array of news and information services provided by Reuters TV

is supplied to financial professionals with a Reuters terminal on their

desk. Provided as part of the Reuters 3000 series, a package of live and

archive financial information, it goes out to about 110,000 terminals

around the world.

It comprises high-level financial information, with live economic

figures, market forecasts, and mini features or briefings on world

markets. As it is designed for the working professional, the emphasis is

on speed: no one programme lasts for more than 20 minutes. It makes CNBC

and Bloomberg look slow.

Reuters may have to consider a slight dumbing down, though, as it plans

to make Reuters TV more broadly available - potentially, making some

programmes available on digital TV.


Time magazine is a formidable global brand, with a reputed ten copies

sold somewhere in the world every second. To make it on to Time’s cover

is to have arrived, and the magazine is often at the top of the list

when it comes to finding a home for a global scoop.

When Monica Lewinsky used it last year to give her side of ’Monicagate’,

the magazine sold like hot cakes worldwide. But Time is no pawn for

those with a story to sell: after the Lewinsky interview, it ran a

feature criticising her role in Clinton’s near downfall.

The magazine has European, Asian and US editions, and varies its content

accordingly. A recent European edition ran the Rugby World Cup on its

cover -a sport as alien as caber-tossing to the average US reader. A lot

of the coverage in each edition is originally sourced which means more

than the cover story differs.

As a news magazine read primarily by travelling business people, Time

devotes a lot of its coverage to global economic issues and has won

awards for its business reporting. It is particularly strong on

technology, with authoritative regulars like Time Digital and TechWatch.

In the 11 October European issue, 77 pages were devoted to a

’Communications Revolution’ supplement.

The Wall Street Journal

Like The Economist, The Wall Street Journal revels in its gravitas. A

front page whose only distraction is a graph and a one-inch-square map

of Europe is not for the faint-hearted. A sub-heading reads:

’Bureaucratic army thwarts savvy local financiers and a reform of

Zhu’s.’ Confused? You will be.

The Wall Street Journal Europe’s editor and associate publisher, Fred

Kempe, denies that the Wall Street Journal is deliberately heavy-going:

’Sure, we don’t have the screaming headlines that you’re used to in the

UK. We’re just saying we’re a serious paper.’

For such an old-fashioned look, it’s interesting that Kempe uses the new

media term ’clickable’ to argue that the format is easy to use. He

claims that many aspects, most notably the front-page What’s News

section, have been widely copied by other publications.

The Wall Street Journal’s European demographic is extremely rich, with

average incomes of dollars 230,000 and assets of dollars 1.6 million. In

the US, where circulation is 1.8 million, the paper reaches further down

into society.

Kempe says 70 per cent of the Wall Street Journal Europe’s 80,000

readers are nationals of EU countries and 60 per cent of the content

relates to European issues. A similar home-market bias is strived for by

The Asian Wall Street Journal.

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