The digital revolution continues to overhaul the landscape of traditional industries. Prior to the widespread access to the Internet, financial news and information was relayed through newspapers. In the U.S.,The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Financial Times were amongst the most popular sources of business news. But demand for newspapers continues to decline as digital means to access information grow. In fact, overall newspaper ad revenue from print dipped below $20 billion in 2014. To put this in perspective, print revenue reached $50 billion in the mid 2000s.
Today, many companies have shifted away from print and solely provide digital news. Along with the breadth of digital news, access to financial information has grown as well. Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters (TRI) are leading the pack, claiming a majority of the business information market. Despite their robust multimedia platforms, both companies are best known for technological devices: the Bloomberg Terminal and Thomson Reuters Eikon, respectively.
Prior to his political career, Michael Bloomberg was a well-known name on Wall Street. After being laid off from the investment bank he had worked at for 20 years, Bloomberg launched his own business information platform. Bloomberg LP provided quick, high quality business information to Wall Street, and in the early 80s, the company sold its first financial information system to Merrill Lynch (BAC).
Today, Bloomberg LP is not only known for Bloomberg Terminal; it has become a global multimedia entity as well. The financial news and media company includes Bloomberg News, Businessweek magazine, radio and television. Even with a vast array of products and services, the Bloomberg Terminal continues to be Bloomberg LP’s core revenue-generating product.
The Bloomberg Terminal is an integral piece of software within the finance industry that is used to access financial information. In its initial phases, the platform was a physical terminal; however, over the years, the terminal has transformed into a remote software that is accessible anywhere. Many companies rely on the terminal to analyze individual securities, market movements and monitor news. An extension, Bloomberg Tradebook, allows formal trade execution through its messaging service. Traders, portfolio managers and risk management analysts, among other financial professionals, use the program. Currently, there are over 325,000 subscriptions worldwide.
Due to its wide reach in finance, the Bloomberg Terminal can have effects on the financial markets. Recently, the terminal experienced an outage that caused the U.K to postpone a debt auction, resulting in significant grief amongst traders around the world. In particular, the messaging and data services led to significant impediments to executing trades.
Created by the Thomson Corporation's 2008 acquisition of Reuters, Thomson Reuters is a multinational media and financial information resource. Thomson Reuters prides itself on delivering leading intel on various sectors, from finance, tax and accounting to legal and intellectual property.
In 2011, Thomson Reuters moved beyond the realm of financial news with the release of a more affordable option to the Bloomberg Terminal: Thomson Reuters Eikon. Like Bloomberg Terminal, Eikon is a software used to monitor and analyze financial information. Eikon provides financial professionals with access to market data, analytics and messaging tools. Information can also be exported to Microsoft Excel for continued data analysis. Furthermore, Eikon can use all tweets on a given subject to identify positive or negative indicators. Unstructured data from social media sources have been key to identifying trends over the past decade, but many platforms, save for Eikon, have been unable to collect and analyze this data.
Eikon and Bloomberg Terminal are the two most used business information platforms. In 2013, Bloomberg Terminal’s 315,000 users accounted for 57 percent of the market. By comparison, Eikon had 190,000 users who accounted for 34 percent of the market, and FactSet, S&P Capital IQ and Morningstar Direct comprise the rest. A majority of Bloomberg Terminal users reside in America and Asia while most Eikon users are in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
For individuals who work at large financial institutions, the cost of either program is probably negligible. However, for higher education institutions, government agencies and small businesses, the costs are staggering. Bloomberg Terminal is the most expensive among financial data providers, costing $24,000 per year. For customers with two or more subscriptions Bloomberg charges $20,000 per year. By comparison, a fully loaded version of Eikon costs $1,800 per month, with a bare bones version costing a mere $300 per month.
While Bloomberg Terminal and Thomson Reuters Eikon are far and away the two most popular platforms in this space, there are a number of less expensive substitutes. FactSet, S&P Capital IQ, Morningstar and YCharts are all viable alternatives, depending on one’s needs and budget.
After Bloomberg and Eikon, FactSet and Capital IQ are the next two most popular financial data platforms for professionals. In 2014, FactSet revenues grew 7.3 percent to $920 million, representing a growing presence in the financial data industry. For smaller more personal use, YCharts offers a lite and professional version. At $39 per month, the lite subscription is geared towards individual investors, whereas the $300 per month professional service is better suited for small businesses. Google (GOOG) and Yahoo! (YHOO) Finance are the most cost-effective options, providing a good portion of YCharts services for free
The Bottom Line
In the finance industry, being able to quickly pull and analyze financial data can mean the difference between millions of dollars and nothing. Bloomberg Terminal and Thomson Reuters Eikon control a majority of this industry and are the cornerstone providers to large financial institutions.
Both platforms are relatively expensive for the casual investor or a small business, but a number of alternatives with much friendlier price tags exist. Lastly, when in doubt, Google and Yahoo Finance provide financial information for free.