I recently caught up with Alisa Parenti, an award-winning radio anchor for Bloomberg business, to talk about innovation and keeping up-to-date with changes in media.
SPARTANS INNOVATE: Can you tell us what innovations in media — whether at Bloomberg or elsewhere — that have piqued your interest?
PARENTI: I would say it is stepping up engagement with readers. Once you get your audience engaged, you win them.
At one of my first TV jobs, we asked our audience about problems they were having, like, ‘the dumpster by my house is never emptied,’ and we would sort of step in to cover those issues. By doing that, we won them over, one by one because people saw results. Ramping up your engagement, whether it’s through an app or a website, is something I would say would go a long way.
Bloomberg is a more traditional outlet that’s focused on business news. I see it’s kind of moving toward more whimsical content, to increase engagement and get more eyes on Bloomberg. What d you think of this shift?
Exactly. A big Bloomberg innovation over the last few months is they’ve rolled out this site called TicToc. It’s not necessarily lighter news; what they’re looking for is sidebar stories to the news we’re covering elsewhere. It’s supposed to be another level of engaging another level of storytelling.
So, for example: A snowstorm hits. There’s obviously the main economic piece that Bloomberg is going to cover on the website, Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio is going to be talking about whatever the economic impact would be of this particular big storm. Or in this case, this year there were two or three in a row. Then, on TicToc, is kind of another level. It’s a little more whimsical, people are sending in pictures of the snow that they encountered. It may be a story of one particular store owner somewhere, it’s a much more on the level of the person storytelling that they’re going for with that.
Isn’t TicToc also sort of a 24-hour show running on Twitter? I know they do video where it’s essentially a show.
Yes. They were kind of trying to promote that as one of the first live news streaming sites on Twitter. I mean, broadcasters on Twitter and here’s what it says:
“The first and only global news network streaming LIVE on Twitter. Follow @tictoc for live news updates at the top of the hour.”
I know that they’ve got reporters who are typically print reporters voicing stuff that they’re working on, and they’re encouraging everybody – all of us who work for Bloomberg – to use their hashtag so it’ll get into the feed and increase the distribution.
I know you’re on radio a ton. What sort of innovation could disrupt radio?
The app radio.com. We’re getting a lot more listeners that way instead of the regular terrestrial radio, you know, in peoples’ cars, stuff like that. So that was an innovation that happened probably, like, two or three years ago, where these stations are putting stuff out affiliated with radio.com.
Have podcasts disrupted radio at all?
You know, it’s interesting. I thought it would kind of cannibalize it and listeners would go there instead. But we’re seeing that they’re going there in addition too radio. So, actually that’s a good example of somewhere we’ve been able to build up even more listenership, rather than take away from our main product, so podcasts are definitely a good idea.
Looping back to TicToc for a second: Do you see yourself ever going on TicToc by Bloomberg?
Probably on the weekends or when I’m not on deadline. But with my current air shift — as you know it’s like every 20 minutes I’m either on Detroit, L.A., or Chicago — I just don’t have the time to kind of engage with Twitter like that. So, I would say on the weekends I could see it happening.
How do you personally stay current and continue to evolve with the industry and its innovations?
What I would say is I’m with The Press Club. The National Press Club is on 14th Street and they do a really good job at keeping people up-to-speed. They offer training, different little courses. I took one on social media there about five or six years ago.
So I would say professional organizations help a lot in staying current. Just really become a consumer of news yourself. I think I was telling you that the benefit of reading your competitors, listening to your competitors, and just having a bigger picture forces you to stay in the game and stay up-to-date on what the biggest thing is.
Do some innovations you see from your competitors that you might be interested in sort of clash with Bloomberg’s brand image?
I would definitely say you really hit on it when you talk about Bloomberg. The brand is, like, this rich, wonky, business, global perspective. But, TicToc, like you say, is much more of a sidebar. It’s more of a whimsical kind of look at things, so that is a definite clash.
The other clash that I see that’s happened is with the consolidation in the radio industry. I’m on the syndication team at Bloomberg, so I’m typically on what used to be CBS stations, which is now owned by Intercom. But Bloomberg owns our network, so I’m kind of serving the general public with very middle-of-the-road type coverage. Traffic and weather, these types of things.
They don’t want to hear about the Federal Reserve. But Bloomberg is very much interested in the Fed, and monetary policy and all this wonky stuff. So I do see a collision of cultures sometimes.
But Bloomberg does try to pride itself in how they try to encourage you to take risks, to go out there and try to do things differently, try to think of things in different ways, so that does help fold in new ideas and innovations.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.