Last night, on April 6, Tom Glocer, chief executive of Thomson Reuters, was sipping a Corona at Drop.io ‘s headquarters, a spacious, brick-ceilinged loft on Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn. Mr. Glocer was there to participate in a Futurists Meetup, talking about what financial news and data will look like in 30 years.
Mr. Glocer explained to the 50 or so attendees that newspapers like The New York Times have to cut costs by concentrating on their strongest coverage. “That view that ‘I am The New York Times and I do everything’—I think that’s not the best way to run a newspaper,” he said.
Here’s how Mr. Glocer sees news in the future: “Why does The New York Times need to have 600-700 journalists? Why not 30 journalists with 30 apprentices? Does The New York Times do a good job covering sports? So-so. Do they do a good job covering business? No. How about The New York Times on Israel, FT“—that would be The Financial Times—”on Germany and France, which is really good, ESPN on sports and other smaller things coming together on a style sheet every morning?”
But would people pay for it? “People will pay for quality journalism,” he said, “whether through micropayments or regular, boring subscription plans.”
Mr. Glocer said his company is comfortable reinventing itself. Besides Reuters’ reputation for breaking news dispatches, more than 40 percent of its revenue comes from foreign exchange and treasury trading services. Until 1970, he said, Reuters never made more than about $100 million a year. Today, it’s a $13.5 billion company because they were “getting out of provisional news gathering, like stop being like the AP and other press, and realizing there was value in information from professionals in their work, whether it was bankers, lawyers and accountants and health care professionals.”
According to a Forbes.com “Faces in the News” profile of Mr. Glocer, when he came on as chief executive in July 2001, he got Reuters to start tailoring new products for traders and asset managers, providing specialist information on fixed-income securities, derivatives and currency markets.
At the Meetup, he discussed Twitter, saying, “I think if you hooked up Einstein to Twitter, it’d be garbage, too.” He also explained why he switched from LinkedIn to Facebook for business networking: “Every asshole who wanted a job was pestering me on LinkedIn and nobody interesting was coming to me.” Mr. Glocer also emphasized the need for financial companies’ to move into more transparent practices and release real-time data sets, instead of quarterly or yearly reports. “Even when it’s down to press releases and Webcasts, it’s really all about a bunch of people inside the walls of a company, a corporation pretending that they have some control over what gets out and a bunch of people on the other side, interpreting the official flow, and then most of the art is saying how that’s bullshit,” he said.
“What if we stopped this charade that people like me pretend to be in control of the timing, and to some extent, the content of my business, and instead release a real-time flow of information?”
Certainly, that will change the game for financial reporters. “I mean, what are good journalists?” he continued. “For good journalists, their job in company reporting is essentially to find out stuff that companies don’t want to release outside of their normal cycles or templates, and get that information faster.”
According to Mr. Grocer, the evolution of news will be a slow process. “I’ve met a lot of smart people in my life, and they’re the ones who are eventually always right and they always know where things are going [and] they always underestimate friction in the world and how long it takes to get there.”
“Since we’re still human beings, living in a friction-filled world, it’ll take at least 10 years for the media cycle to catch up,” he said.