That the news business is changing comes as no surprise to anyone. The 21 October 2020 acquisition of Acquire Media (acquiremedia.com) by Moody’s Corporation (moodys.com) provides an added perspective on how and why these changes affect news about international corporations, industries, markets, the business environment, and everyday life. Not only has the shift to real-time news accelerated, but also sources have expanded to include much more than the traditional media. As news becomes ubiquitous, free, unfiltered, and subject to debate, the validation and analysis of news reports becomes increasingly valuable.
Moody’s has a very long history. It began in 1909 as a publisher of stock and bond credit ratings. As a publisher, its Moody’s manuals graced many a library shelf. Moody’s Investor’s Service still provides ratings, although the manuals were spun off in 1998 and are now published electronically by Mergent, now part of FTSE Russell, which is owned by the London Stock Exchange.
Moody’s current CEO, Raymond W. McDaniel, Jr., who will retire at the end of this year, has made several acquisitions during his tenure. The one most interesting to information professionals was the 2017 acquisition of Bureau van Dijk (bvdinfo.com), which Moody’s placed in its Moody’s Research, Data & Analytics unit. Its databases concentrate on private company data, although they also include listed, public companies. In January 2020, Moody’s added Regulatory Data Corp (rdc.com) to its portfolio. RDC provides anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) data through its Global Regulatory Information Database (GRID), which incorporates industry-leading artificial intelligence (AI) for compliance screening.
Moody’s sees its latest acquisition, of Acquire Media, as fitting in with BVD and RDC by amplifying their data with news. The press release says that the acquisition strengthens Moody’s “ability to provide early warning and real-time insight to market participants.”
Acquire Media has an interesting history, although it does not stretch back nearly as far in time as Moody’s. It began as NewsEdge, which was formed as a merger in 1997 between Desktop Data and Individual, Inc. Its CEO, Don McLagan, pioneered a dynamic taxonomy system that prefigured the AI-driven taxonomies of today. Thomson acquired NewsEdge in 2001 for its Thomson Business Intelligence (YBI) unit, then sold it in 2007 to Acquire Media. During the TBI era, the taxonomy stagnated and its new owner vowed to enhance its taxonomic capabilities. CEO Larry Rafsky did just that, bringing attention back to creating and maintaining a standardized, robust taxonomy.
Acquire Media’s NewsEdge product specialises in “in news and other time-sensitive content – acquiring it from publishers and distributing it to corporate servers, websites and end users with near-zero latency and pinpoint filtering.” Its sources include “world-recognized news sources, industry-specific publications, and news and content sites from around the world” along with “news from blogs, websites, government regulatory commissions, even Twitter – over 400,000 articles a day.”
In late December 2017, Newscycle Solutions purchased Acquire Media. By the time Newscycle changed its name to Naviga (navigagloal.com) in April 2019, it owned Zinio, Infomaker, Marketing G2, and DoApp Mobile, in addition to Acquire Media. Apparently, either Acquire Media did not meet the synchronicity criteria that Naviga originally envisioned when it acquired the company or Naviga needed a cash infusion that Moody’s was happy to provide. Naviga is a portfolio company of the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners. It now defines itself as a publishing software company.
The Future of News Aggregation
The acquisition is definitely a win for Moody’s. But it is also an object lesson in the changes in news acquisition and distribution over the past two decades. Back in 1997, news aggregation was a commodity business where a price tag was expected. In the business world, companies like Factiva dominated the market. As news outlets proliferated and the internet became the primary access point, Google and other web search engines moved into the news aggregation space, scraping free sources and aggregating news stories with little to no human intervention.
Making news free put pressure on subscription services to prove their value. The sophisticated taxonomy of NewsEdge was replaced by the machine learning algorithms of web search engines. More recently, the Google algorithms for news stories have not been working very well. Google seems unable to distinguish between valid news sources, particularly ones purporting to lead to market research reports, and fabricated titles. For business decision-making, returning to subscription sources that actively curate and classify news not only saves valuable time but also relies on trusted news sources. Combining the news distribution capabilities of Acquire Media with the company background information provided by BVD and RDC makes for a very powerful combination. The sticking point is whether Moody’s is interested in making these analytical tools available to libraries and, if so, will it be at an affordable price?
View full press release here: https://ir.moodys.com/news-and-financials/press-releases/press-release-details/2020/Moodys-Purchases-Acquire-Media-Advancing-Leadership-in-Counterparty-Screening-Surveillance-Solutions/default.aspx