The Future of News (Distribution): Tom Glocer, CEO, Thomson Reuters
A closet geek who loves to talk about gadgets, Tom Glocer started off his career at a start-up focused on software for educational games. He also was a mergers and acquisitions lawyer, but try not to hold that against him. Mr. Glocer has been working at Reuters since 1993, rising in the ranks through its recent merger with Thomson. The combined company is now one of the largest of its kind, selling all sorts of information about the financial, legal, tax and accounting, scientific, health-care and media markets. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University and a JD from Yale Law School.
- Kara welcomes Tom Glocer to the D stage.
- Kara recalls her first meeting with Glocer in London, which was supposed to concern news, but quickly evolved into a discussion of gadgets. Glocer is a gadget-freak and apparently has some programming background as well: As best I understand, Glocer developed a video game based on litigation’s discovery process while in school (sounds like a great candidate for EA’s next big hit). Someone eventually picked the game up and it’s now used in law schools.
- On to the merger: Kara asks about the logic behind the deal. Glocer says the deal answers the question: How do I monetize my content in a world in which content is free? We’re living in a world in which, if you’re able to give people exactly the content they’re looking for, in exactly the format they require, they’ll actually pay you more for less of it. Obviously, this is a perfect model for financial information, Glocer says. But you really need to understand the needs of your customers.
- As the quality of free services like those offered by Reuters improves, might the company lose its footing? Nope. Reuters has a great value proposition, says Glocer.
- Who are your competitors? asks Kara. Glocer mentions the usual suspects: Bloomberg, etc., but notes that none of them encompass the same breadth of markets that Reuters does. Glocer explains that Reuters is essentially building content sets that can be consumed by humans–or machines.
- Kara circles back to the merger. Isn’t this an awful time to double down in financial services? Nope, says Glocer. We really don’t think things are that bad. Look at Asia, he says, noting the growth in those countries’ financial markets. Emerging markets have long been one of Reuters’s strengths and continue to be.
- How are citizen journalists impacting your news business? Reuters has massive operating costs; bloggers, obviously, do not. Glocer: We have one great advantage over bloggers: we write once, and sell many times to many different media outlets. He notes that Reuters already packages feeds for various news markets. Soon it hopes to package them for industries as well–lawyers, health-care workers, etc.
- As newspapers cut back foreign bureaus, Glocer notes, business for news services like Reuters grows, because papers rely even more on its network of reporters worldwide. As a point of irony, he says, Reuters has grown as newspapers have shrunk: “We hope newspapers will hobble along for years to come,” he says.
- How is news changing, asks Kara. Glocer says we’ll likely see more of a mix of commentary from high-talent sources, reporters and stringers, and citizen journalists. Glocer recalls the tsunami in Thailand, explaining that the day it occurred, Reuters had no photographers in the area. Reuters was forced to rely on citizen photographs.
- Kara: Do you envision Reuters ever becoming the biggest distributor of user-generated content? Glocer finds the idea interesting, noting that there’s a lot to be said for using the Reuters brand to vouch for citizen bloggers.
- Kara: What frightens you? The Googles of the world? Glocer says he’s not so much worried about a single company as he is about a structural change in the economies that create the need for the information Reuters provides.
- Moving on to gadgets: Glocer is really liking his iPhone. Says he used to be a BlackBerry guy, but has ditched the device for Apple’s offering. He now carries two iPhones.
- Who do you find to be the most important company in tech right now? Kara asks. Glocer: I guess it’s really hard to get away from Google. Who else has managed such winner-take-all success in such a short time?
- And what about Yahoo and Microsoft: What’s going to happen? Glocer: I’m not one to give Jerry advice, but I do think the two companies need each other.
- Question from the audience: Does the company plan any consumer acquisitions? Glocer says he likes to build things organically, but he’s not opposed to other acquisitions.
For more coverage, see Barron’s Tech Trader Daily.
A note about our coverage: This live blog is not an official transcript of the conversation that occurred onstage. Rather, it is a compilation of quotes, paraphrased statements and ad-lib observations expeditiously written and posted to the Web as quickly as we were able. It was not intended as a transcript and should not be interpreted as one.