Can Bloomberg Law Compete with Lexis and Westlaw? Pt 3 – The BNA Acquisition and SCOTUSblog sponsorship

October 20, 2011

In part 2 of my blog, I discussed Bloomberg Law’s acquisition of the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), and the impact on its database content-particularly in comparison to that of its competitors LEXIS and WESTLAW. I also mentioned briefly their new  sponsorship of SCOTUSbLOG. On September 30, Bloomberg Law finalized its acquisition of BNA after clearing the remaining regulatory hurdles.  According to Dan Doctoroff, CEO and President of Bloomberg, “the merger will  offer a unique combination of premium content, deep subject matter expertise, proprietary data and world-class technological capabilities. The combination also enables Bloomberg Law to expand into the legal information market and increase its presence in the Washington, D.C. area, BNA’s home base.  The last sentence  is particularly interesting to me, because it signals a move to promote branding as much as content. More specifically, it signals a marketing plan to distance or differentiate the new  Bloomberg Law , from its financial services  sibling. Bloomberg Law is web-based and technology driven,  while its sibling  relies on the older  dedicated Ubiq terminals for access. Bloomberg Law looks to the nation’s capital and  “deep subject matter” , while its sibling looks to Wall Street and the financial markets.(Not the most popular position to be in these days of protests against corporate greed).

On September 26, just a few days prior to the finalization of the BNA merger, Bloomberg Law and SCOTUSblog, the online resource for  comprehensive coverage of the United States Supreme Court, announced that they had entered into an exclusive sponsorship agreement. SCOTUSblog provides coverage of individual cases, a daily aggregation of Supreme Court writings, archives, and analytic features. Its  readership includes  attorneys, law students, academics, business leaders and the general public. Yes, this sponsorship can serve as an entrée for Blomberg in new markets such as law students , academics, and the general public. However,  I think that this alliance  also reinforces my views on Blomberg Law’s  marketing plan. Here’s some more evidence.  “SCOTUSblog’s comprehensive and impartial examination of the Supreme Court is an important public resource and Bloomberg Law is proud to support their ability to bring this content to the public, free of charge via the Web”,said  Bloomberg Law CEO Lou Andreozzi.  Tom Goldstein, SCOTUSblog founder and publisher echoed Andreozzi’s words with : “Bloomberg Law’s support will allow us to reach new readers and give existing readers new features and enhanced information. Most importantly, it will allow us to expand the resources we provide like the significant upgrade of the new SCOTUSblog platform launching today, without charge and with the same independence and high ethical standards for which we are known.” It is no coincidence that  Bloomberg Law and SCOTUSblog are planning  to collaborate  to develop symposia, webinars and other events to help students learn about the Supreme  Court.  Notice  the buzzwords: public resource, free of charge, enhanced information, new platform, and webinars.

But where does this leave us on the question of whether Bloomberg Law is ready to compete with LEXIS and WESTLAW. I assert that  Bloomberg Law, a good buy as a $450 single user product  to supplement an existing LEXIS or WESTLAW subscription, just got better.  Is it ready to compete right now head-on ? I think not. I still ask (as does Wendy’s Hamburgers), “Where’s the beef?”  Tune into my next blog to find out more.