When you think capitalism, you think Bloomberg. And when you think capitalism and the media, you think Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio and the Bloomberg newswire and the Bloomberg terminal thingie that spits out financial data with the relentlessness of a late-afternoon downpour. I'm a huge fan of the no-B.S. manner in which the company delivers information, even if I have little interest in the information itself, and today's run through Bloomberg Markets magazine doesn't change that one bit.
Forget the "Personal Business" effluvia on "executive dining" in Hong Kong and the 20-odd pages worth of terminal tips. Where Bloomberg Markets distinguishes itself is in its features, which provide more kick, grit and nuance than those in competing publications. The July issue is headlined by a three-article examination of "Toxic Debt," specifically how the sub-prime debacle is having a pebble-in-a-pond effect on everything from public pensions to Stock-Market Sally's portfolio. I won't betray my ignorance on such matters by attempting to parse the stories any further than that, but I'll say this: after you've read 'em, you walk away much smarter. And more nervous.
Equally sharp are the four other features (seven lengthy investigative stories in a single issue of a magazine? Be still, my beating medulla oblongata). They're worth celebrating as much for their informative wallop as for their diversity: there's a report on stock-option-backdating hijinks at a tech firm, another on a state-owned Russian gas company responsible for fueling a big chunk of Europe, a survey of the exploding India auto market, and the most comprehensive examination of so-called surgical travel that I've read to date. Getting the head of the besieged tech firm to speak on the record, even if not directly about the allegations, seems a real coup.
The July issue does, however, start quite slow. Nothing in the upfront "Agenda" section -- a bit on the Mexican drug war, a ten-years-after look at the Asian markets that took a spill -- feels as newsy or inventive as the feature pieces. Some, in fact, strike me as seriously outdated, like the piece in which a former Goldman Sachs exec/old white guy shakes his fist and bemoans the salaries given to those crazy kids, with the fast cars and the long hair and the hippie drums. "Agenda" could use some fresh thinking, especially if the pullout "Global Date Book" falls under its purview. I only pray that financial types will somehow be able to navigate July's back-to-back minefields of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix Motorcycle Race and the arrival of the U.K. second-quarter GDP data.
Bloomberg Markets also occasionally wanders off the reservation in its art/photo choices. The mag wins the worst-use-of-Photoshop-2007 qualifying heat with its clumsy presentation of a mortgage seller buried up to his necktie in the sand, while its infrequent illustrations -- including one of a guy whose Pinocchio nose extends through a bird house, or something -- kinda freak me out, man. I appreciate the effort, but the mag should stick to more conventional business-pub fare. Just because you have the budget to get all fancy-shmancy doesn't necessarily mean you have to avail yourself of it.
When the fine print informed me that Bloomberg Markets is delivered gratis to all Bloomberg terminal-of-mirth-and-wonderment subscribers, my expectations immediately sagged. Such freebie publications, after all, are usually an afterthought, both in the minds of the folks who produce them and the people who read them. Much to its credit, Bloomberg Markets doesn't take its built-in readership for granted. It stands tall on its own merits.