By Ryan Skinner (email)
It's all about this: Be the go-to source of information for the kinds of decision-makers who lead the industry. Any one pitching a story at a Lloyd's List or TradeWinds editor (and I've done it not a few times) will often hear them say: "If it doesn't interest the big shipowner boss, it doesn't interest us."
The shape and speed of what interests big shipowners may be changing, however.
The mother company of Lloyd's List, a pretty large media company called Informa, recently announced its annual results. Note how two aspects of this report play together:
1) "They are still benefiting from cost control measures implemented across the business." - Basically, they've slashed expenses related to news production, among other things.
2) "Informa were concentrating on premium intelligence and increasingly looking at enterprise sales of subscription content." - They're betting on supplying data to businesses.
An induction: Informa cuts Lloyd's List's budget down to less than it needs to survive long-term as a newsroom. It lives off of past glory and decent distribution only long enough to build up its data and decision-support business - Lloyd's List Intelligence. This is where the future lies.
TradeWinds surpassed Lloyd's List in circulation a couple years ago. Many in the business seem to feel that TradeWinds has the better newspaper product. Informa, though, may simply enough not care. Unlike Lloyd's List competitor Fairplay (IHS), TradeWinds hasn't built up any kind of intelligence, data or decision support product. It is here Informa sees the real value.
It's a struggle between being the best conventional newspaper product (which might be TradeWinds) and being something else. Something else is not a newspaper. Something else is an Internet-enabled supplier of real-time information. A newspaper reports a number of past happenings. Real-time information tells you what's happening now (or very, very recently). What do you think's more valuable to businesspeople?
As mentioned previously, Informa/Lloyd's List competitor IHS/Fairplay have gone down the same road. Data just seems the better bet. Who in shipping these days ISN'T talking about decision support systems? And there's tremendous value in it: As anyone who's gone down the data road knows, it leads to counterintuitive revelations that dramatically improve results.
Does that mean there's no room left for the shipping journalist? Yes, and no. There's always value in a scoop (getting out commercially sensitive information, such as contracts, first). Then there's value in analysis and commentary from experienced market watchers - as long as they're also studying the data.
Lloyd's List: All about the data. TradeWinds: Scoops and analysis.