I’ve been thinking all day about what the Bloomberg acquisition of BNA will eventually mean in the legal publishing world. I first thought of what it would mean to Westlaw and Lexis, and whether Bloomberg Law would now truly bring some competition to the duopoly we’ve all come to accept (and loathe.) However, what really kept popping into my mind was another vendor, CCH… actually CCH’s parent, Wolters Kluwer. In a way, Bloomberg is becoming what CCH “should have become” years ago but never got its act together to be a true competitor. Wolter Kluwer had all the pieces to be competitive, but persisted in the business model of being a holding company for all of these pieces rather than integrating them into a single platform. Sure, the whole IntelliConnect platform was supposed to work toward integration, but it never really recovered after its initial stumbling out of the gate (although, they have given a lot of effort to rectify that blunder over the past couple of years.)
With Bloomberg now having all cases/statutes/regs plus Dockets, a citator system, and now quality secondary resources, it “should” become a major player in the market. Whether or not it can break into that market is still yet to be determined. WestlawNext and Lexis Advance are still relatively new products, and the whole WestlawNext launch fiasco is finally seeming to settle down (although statistics on the adoption of WLN by current Westlaw subscribers is still a little iffy, in my opinion.)
The biggest mistake that Bloomberg can make right now is assuming that they can be competitive simply because they are not Westlaw or Lexis. They bombed at that approach with the whole BLAW launch a few years ago (along with that awful interface.) Bloomberg better come in with some serious pricing deals for firms willing to take them on. Bloomberg needs to get “in the door” of these firms and be on the desktop, laptop, and or iPadtop of attorneys, paralegals and librarians. Right now, Bloomberg needs to learn to speak the language of those in charge of buying law firm research products… “price sells!”
The second biggest mistake that Bloomberg could make is screwing with existing BNA contracts and access points. If they want to see customers bolt for BNA’s competitors, simply tell them that they’ll have to move off of the current platform and onto Bloomberg’s black-and-orange platform. Now is the time to lure customers into the whole Bloomberg Law platform (now improved with BNA!!) It is not the time to bring in ultimatums of move over or lose access.
Although many of us are sad to see an employee-owned organization like BNA go away and merge into the one-employee owned Bloomberg product, I think this may eventually fill all those empty spots that Bloomberg currently has in content, and even make the BNA materials better over time. At least we can be happy that Thomson Reuters or Reed Elsevier didn’t get their hands on BNA.
After a little thinking, I think this acquisition will turn out okay and will finally give Wexis some real competition in the legal publishing and financial news market. I’ve been harping that Bloomberg was too narrowly focused (mainly at big law firms in Manhattan). Now, they step out of NYC and try to take over the (legal publishing) world!