How Bloomberg is trying to own Brexit coverage

The British vote to withdraw from the European Union led to an avalanche of predictions of economic doom. But it’s also been a boon to publishers as the public is transfixed by the wonky details of extracting the world’s fifth-largest economy from the world’s largest second-largest economic entity.

Bloomberg, with a mandate to focus on verticals, is looking to take a leading position on Brexit, which will take up to three years to execute and have ramifications far beyond. Bloomberg has secured the @Brexit account on Twitter and has rolled out a daily email newsletter, Brexit Bulletin. Both bring subscribers all of Bloomberg’s Brexit coverage.

“We’re going to expand in Europe socially to be really part of the region,” said Bloomberg’s digital news managing editor, Adam Blenford. Bloomberg’s European operations don’t yet have their own Facebook page, but the small U.K. digital team is picking its battles carefully.

On Sunday, Bloomberg secured the previously inactive Twitter handle @Brexit. In under five days, @Brexit has grown from a handful of followers to a modest 3,000. It sends around three original tweets per hour from the account, all Brexit articles that Bloomberg has written. Charts and data visualizations are doing particularly well, and the levels of engagement on this account are comparable, if not better, than the engagement on Bloomberg’s largest global @Business account, which has 3.4 million followers.

“It’s difficult to go large on Brexit on a global account,” said Blenford. “When the U.S. wakes up, unless Brexit is global news story, we have to take a back seat.”

The daily Brexit Bulletin is a roundup of Bloomberg’s Brexit stories. Bloomberg claims the Bulletin has “thousands” of subscribers, although Blenford wouldn’t give specifics. Globally, average daily unique visitors to the web version of the Bulletin have increased 42 percent since launch. Visitors spend 38 percent more time on the Brexit Bulletin online than on Bloomberg’s average news article, but, again, Blenford wouldn’t break out the numbers.

The focus on Brexit comes as Bloomberg expands its presence in the U.K. Bloomberg launched its digital presence in London along with the European version of the homepage in April 2015. In the last 18 months, the U.K. digital team has grown from six to 11, including homepage editors, social media managers, photo production, interactive graphics journalists and a couple of reporters. According to comScore, in the U.K. Bloomberg has 3 million monthly uniques.

Increasingly, Bloomberg has been doing more original reporting for the web out of Europe, too, like this piece on the growing trade of high-end movie props or this on the fate of London’s dormant red phone boxes.

Outside of Twitter, the U.K. team is using Instagram, too. Bloomberg’s London newsroom was the first Bloomberg bureau to use Instagram Stories when the feature launched in August. It has created Stories on exclusive interviews with Vladimir Putin, and the U.S. election debates, as well as create chronological sequences explaining what happened in key global events, like when the Italian earthquake struck and when an intruder scaled Trump Tower.

“With Instagram Stories, we’ve developed our own bespoke graphics and templates to fit the format and try to expand its functionality,” said social media editor Kevin Young. “For instance, we now create a pop-up Story that runs for about four hours each day based on the ‘five things everyone will be talking about today’ article we publish online. We’ve realized that simple is best in terms of slides and layouts.”

Image: Courtesy of Bloomberg.

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