The financial and business media has been at the forefront of many of the key innovations in contemporary media. It was the first to successfully implement subscription and membership schemes and it has led the way in experimenting with data journalism.
In 2020 though it faces a new set of challenges from extending the reach of existing brands into new platforms through to integrating smart tools to aid investors. From an editorial perspective questions about sustainability, the growth of cryptocurrencies and the disruption caused by the maturing of startup businesses make life very interesting for both journalists and their readers.
Almar Latour, Publisher for Barron’s Group and EVP at Dow Jones, is a US-based Dutch national with a 360 degree view of financial and business media and where it is heading. Almar oversees the growth of the business and luxury brands Barron’s, MarketWatch, Financial News and Mansion Global, and is responsible for the group’s editorial operations as well as its P&L, an unusual joint role.
At DIS 2020 he will look at the growth of business media and how Barron’s and Dow Jones have undertaken highly successful brand extensions and created new revenues sources,. Here he talks about his role and the unique perspective his editorial background gives him.
Please detail your journey to Barron’s and Dow Jones, and what is your day to day role?
As publisher, I run a global media unit – a portfolio of five financial and business-focused brands and tens of millions of digital readers. We are predominantly digital, but also have a TV show, two glossies, a newspaper and a magazine. Our brands include the iconic Barron’s, MarketWatch, luxury real-estate site Mansion Global, luxury and high-net-worth site Penta, and Financial News, which writes about and for financial professionals in London. Our mission is to help people make financial and business decisions, from beginners to billionaires. My responsibility is to grow and innovate the business, and take our journalism to new heights.
Explain too about the rationale behind the creation of a separate publishing unit in Barron’s Group?
We created a new unit to form a space for rapid experimentation and innovation in a real business environment; a place where we could try new ways of working; a media business that could be run holistically. We also set out to strengthen some of the finest brands in financial journalism and reinvent them for a digital age.
You have talked about creating a startup feel in Barron’s Group – what does this mean in practical terms?
In practice this means that we work in small teams, each with clear responsibilities and accountability. We encourage experimentation. We try new ideas, with clear success metrics, and then decide whether to continue, add fuel, stop, or change direction. The people who work here get responsibility and experience that stretches them. We’re an incubator of sorts, but always in the context of real-world growth.
What were the key lessons you learned from the creation of a digital driven news room at the WSJ, and how has this influenced your role at Barron’s/Dow Jones?
The Journal is a formidable force, as a newsroom and as a business. During my time running digital, I learned that quality journalism has value; that colleagues who believe in a mission will push themselves to reach the top; that readers care about our product and we get better when we listen to them. My mantra there was globalise, digitise and specialise. That sense of mission, focus, service and ambition has shaped me as a journalist and as a publisher.
What key insights do you think having an editorial background gives you in your role as publisher?
Great, high-quality financial journalism is built on facts and figures. You need to ask the right questions. You need to be curious and persistent to find the truth. And you need to be self-critical and demanding to serve your readers, who make decisions based on your reporting. In publishing, data and asking the right questions are similarly important. And in a fast-changing environment, you need to be curious and driven. Perhaps a telling difference between the role of journalist and publisher is to not be too focused on daily output and deadlines but on the longer term. You also need a degree of humility in both journalism and publishing: When we get it wrong, we need to acknowledge that and course-correct.
Your unit has recently created new digital and broadcast offerings – what have you learned from their launch?
It’s amazing to see a brand come to life on television and video. We found that it is possible to share the essence of the brand and its values with viewers when we let our reporters and editors be themselves. Based on the reaction from viewers we know that the show resonates – we’ve given our most loyal members and fans a way to spend more time with the reporters they have often followed for years, even decades; and we are introducing a new audience to the Barron’s brand. It’s worth the effort to be on TV if it’s authentically your brand. It helps to have a great partner that knows the medium well, in our case Fox Business News.
Your membership scheme has been very successful. Outside of the quality of the journalism that people can access, what other factors do you think have fuelled this growth?
Entrepreneurial thinking helped us seek and find new audiences, new geographies, new platforms. Listening to our members helped us double down on the value they get from us – actionable information; analysis that will help them win. And collaboration and breaking down silos in our business and newsroom helped us narrow our focus and unlock resources that may have proven elusive otherwise. .
Where do you think financial journalism will go in the future? Is it likely to become even more globalised? And what innovations or new technologies will sustain it?
Financial journalism will become ever more specialised, more global and reach more people who are faced with real-life questions on how to manage their business, life and career and finances. Delivering facts won’t be enough – delivering guidance will become more important. More and more people will crave smart tools, data and reporting to help them build wealth or support their families. To deliver top-quality financial journalism, we will need top-quality data and data analysis, and we will need to deliver answers to the questions our users pose around the world, and offer those answers in any format our readers need and want. Our mission to help put truth to good ends will remain constant and unchanged.