DealBook vs Dealbreaker

Elizabeth Spiers can’t be happy this morning. The New York Times has just launched

DealBook, a business-news

blog which seems to do everything one might want a business blog to do, except

maybe snark. It’s very good at pointing to non-NYT stories: it’s AT&T/BellSouth

entry, for instance,

has seven external links. If you’re interested in which investment banks worked

on the deal, the NYT might not tell you yourself, but it will happily point

to a Marketwatch story

which has all the detail you might want. And if you’re interested in the law

firms being brought on board, there’s an entire blog

entry devoted to just that.

So where does that leave Spiers’s Dealbreaker?

She says that the people working on the site are going to be beat reporters,

breaking news. But that puts them in direct competition with the newswires and,

increasingly, newspapers’ websites. If Spiers wants a niche, it’s probably going to be in breaking gossip: hirings and firings, primarily, and maybe bonus speculation.

The other, unfilled, niche, of course, is snark. But I get the feeling that

Spiers, despite more or less inventing the snark-fuelled blog at Gawker, is

soft-pedalling that potential side to Dealbreaker.

The other open niche is free value-added commentary. The NYT’s business columnists,

Norris, Nocera, and Morgenson, are behind the Times Select firewall. Breakingviews,

too, is subscriber-only. But do Spiers and her backers have deep enough pockets

to afford bloggers with enough market experience that their views are worth

listening to? Maybe she can find some laid-off financial journalists who haven’t

been able to find new jobs elsewhere. But then I suspect her turnover might

be very high, with bloggers constantly moving to "real" media as soon

as they get an offer. Just as Spiers

herself did, back in the day.

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8 Responses to DealBook vs Dealbreaker

  1. Lock says:

    I’d bet Spiers is plenty happy. DealBook will end up linking to Dealbreaker promiscuously, which will be good for her traffic. And Dealbook is so perfectly plain in tone that Dealbreaker is likely to stand out as a much more fun read.

  2. Felix says:

    That’s a good point, actually. Insofar as Dealbreaker does break deals, it now has built-in link love from the NYT, which is fantastic. And the blog world is a positive-sum game: competition tends to increase traffic rather than decrease it. So let me change my mind here: DealBook is probably a good thing for Dealbreaker.

    But… Let’s say that Dealbreaker announces that company X is buying company Y, based on a single anonymous source. (That’s OK, it’s a blog, it can do that sort of thing.) Will DealBook link to that sort of story? If Dealbreaker deals in market rumors, will DealBook avoid linking to them because doing so would make it seem that the rumours were important enough that the NYT should link to them?

  3. Lock says:

    Stop the ride, I’m dizzy now.

  4. First, I’d like to take the opportunity to note that today is Ivan Boesky’s birthday. Happy birthday, Ivan. If Dealbreaker were up and running, I’d have interns baking you a cake with gold-flecked icing in the shape of a German bearer bond.

    But I digress.

    At any rate, rumors of my unhappiness have been greatly exaggerated. I was going to make a bet with someone about how long it would take Felix to do a gloom-and-doom post about Dealbreaker, but I naively assumed we’d have to actually launch the site before he could do that. So, Me: 0. Felix: 1.

    The DealBook site has been in the works for quite a while and was not a surprise to me. I’m friends with Sorkin and was an early subscriber to (and fan of) his DealBook html newsletter and always thought it should be online as well. I know Sorkin was pushing for it, so I’m glad it finally happened.

    I find it interesting that Felix assumes that “market experience” is more valuable in the form of journalism experience than actual experience on Wall Street. I don’t expect Dealbreaker to do much if any hard analysis, but as an ex-buy side tech equity analyst, one of my biggest frustrations with mainstream financial journalism is the surprising number of people who do it without a basic understanding of finance. On that count at least, my “market experience” isn’t half bad.

    But Felix isn’t the first person to tell me that I need someone with credible “market experience”–and i use the quotation marks intentionally–to get anyone to read Dealbreaker. I had drinks with Jim Cramer a few weeks ago and he said more or less the same thing. He asked me who my “gravitas writer” was going to be. My feeling is that if Dealbreaker has anything remotely resembling gravitas, we’re clearly doing something wrong, so I asked Jim what he meant by “gravitas writer”. He said I’d have to hire someone like Joe Nocera to get anyone to read it.

    I’m a big fan of Nocera’s and I’d love to hire him, but A) he’d never work for me and B) what it would cost to hire him would obliterate my margins. I mentioned this to Jim and his response was “Well, you’ve just got it all figured out, don’t you?” Then he called me arrogant. Repeatedly. (But on the upside, he *did* give me a bobblehead doll of himself. When you press a button, it says “Boo-yah!”…I sort of love it.)

    And Felix and Jim may both be right, and I may have to pack up shop because I can’t hire bloggers who know how to run a Monte Carlo simulation on a Japanese derivative. But in my experience, you don’t need brand-name writers to get people to read a blog, and serious institutional investors don’t rely on mainstream financial media for securities analysis. And none of the Gawker Media writers, with the possible exception of Ana Cox, had recognizable bylines before writing Gawker blogs.

    Growing readership on blogs is about creating compelling content, just as with any other media property. Felix assumes that “compelling” means utility-driven info. I don’t think it does. No one wants to admit it, but all Dealbreaker has to be is entertaining and I’ll have readers. We will break news, of course, and some of that news will invariably be useful. But there’s no pretense that we’ll be replacing Institutional Investor or Grant’s Interest Rate Observer or, godforbid, Joe Nocera.

    A lot of people seem to have a mental image of Dealbreaker as being comparable to some existing site, and bring up everything from to as possible competition. There’s some natural overlap, but Dealbreaker’s mostly about Wall Street personalities and Wall Street culture. It’s a Daily Show version of CNBC. And if you’re expecting the Times Business Section in shorter form, you’ll probably find it a bit sophomoric.

  5. Lock says:

    Spiers, I can’t believe you’re taking Felix’s bait. You know better than that. Going to have to give him another point just on principle.

    SPIERS 0 SALMON 2, t-minus three weeks to your launch.

  6. Felix says:

    I love the idea of “a Daily Show version of CNBC”. And maybe that’s the way to make Dealbreaker work: snark off the inherently ridiculous talking heads on the business cable channels, rather than off the slightly less ridiculous business news media. But of course they’re hard to link to.

    As for Jim Cramer vs Elizabeth Spiers, I’m with Elizabeth on this one. Of course you don’t need a “name”.

    But I’m pretty sure I didn’t say what Elizabeth says I said:

    I find it interesting that Felix assumes that “market experience” is more valuable in the form of journalism experience than actual experience on Wall Street.

    Not at all. A former trader or analyst who can write (like Elizabeth herself) is in many ways superior to a journalist. I guess I assumed such people would never work for blogger pay — but Elizabeth did, so others might too.

    Felix assumes that “compelling” means utility-driven info.

    Again, I said nothing even approaching that. Entertaining writing is — Elizabeth is quite right about this — more than sufficient. I even said that there was an unfilled niche in the snark space, and it seems that Elizabeth is aiming straight for it. I wish her well, and I will be a loyal reader.

    I won’t pretending that launching a finance blog is something that never crossed my mind. But I always ran up against a number of mental problems: firstly, what to link to? Most finance content is behind firewalls. But there’s probably enough of it out there on Marketwatch and Reuters and Bloomberg and even, and one can always snark about unlinked TV content.

    My second problem was that I felt I couldn’t stop myself from essentially writing a blog about financial journalism, as opposed to a blog about finance. I daresay I’m even more frustrated by financial journalism than Elizabeth is, and I knew I’d end up snarking much more about the prose in the NYT than I would about the actual goings-on in the market. And since no one in the market reads the NYT anyway, it was hard to see how they would care about such material.

    So it’s true that I didn’t think that I could do a finance blog. But I don’t think Elizabeth can’t either: in fact, if anybody can, she can. I’m optimistic. And besides, I’m 2-0 up already. I can afford to be magnanimous.

  7. Lock: I can’t believe you’re still reading.

    Lock: 0. Me: psfkjesjfoijseflskkdffflllltttt.

  8. Jim says:

    Please make fun of Jim Cramer when Dealbreaker officially launches.


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