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Tom Glocer, Reuters chief executive, talks to Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, media editor, on January 26 2007 about what he sees as the stand out themes at Davos: climate change and blogging
Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson: You’ve come to Davos many times. What stood out for you this year?
Tom Glocer: Well, the snow... the view from the top is distinctively white this morning. Probably two themes this year more than any other. One is climate change which has spoken about here for a number of years, at the beginning really just the hard core environment scientists, then later the economists, but the more academic of them. But this year you can just feel when a certain issue coalesces and it’s at that perfect tipping point. So that’s one theme. And the other is certainly blogging. This year there are a whole host of bloggers here, Arianna Huffington, Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine, and it’s great to see them in the community, but they’re the new Bono... you know, they are the total stars and it’s amusing.
AEJ: You have your own blog. What has the response been like and what have you been writing about on that?
TG: I have a blog mostly directed internally to Reuters, but it’s not firewalled. There’s no security. Anyone can get to it and people do. And I basically use it as one of a number of forms of communication, a nice two-way forum so people can actually post back. So I’ll post once or twice a week, something like that. I don’t usually have the time to do it. I just posted one yesterday from here which was all about... very self referentially about blogging and how I’ve noticed that nobody has time to have conversations because they’re all too busy blogging the great idea, so it’s hi, love to talk but I’ve got to go rush and write about it instead.
AEJ: The overarching theme of Davos this year is the shifting power equation. How are you seeing that in your own business?
TG: I mean, I think there’s a nice balance in the financial services side of Reuters’ business. You know, I would say the power has always been on the consumer or consumer side, because our consumer is Goldman Sachs, UBS, Barclays, and they weren’t exactly the underdogs to start with, so it’s always been a very good and strong partnership. Where it’s really interesting to see is on the more consumer media side and there the talk very much is about participatory journalism, how is the pipe now a two way pipe where the consumer actually wants to contribute content and wants to edit that content and present it.
AEJ: Reuters is one of the oldest names in news. You started off with carrier pigeons, but you now have a bureau in the virtual world of Second Life, which has been a theme of some interest at this conference. What’s that achieved for you?
TG: Number one, I think it’s important for 155 year old companies not to take themselves so seriously that they can’t experiment and play at the fringes. We have one reporter in Second Life. It’s a project that really came about following a conference I attended last year with the Head of Linden Labs who produce Second Life, Phil Rosedale, and we started talking. I’d been playing for a while in the environment, really just seeing what it was about early on and then handed it off to a great team at Reuters that has created a presence in Second Life. We have the Reuters News Atrium, an island that people can go, C News delivered in the outside world and in Second Life, talk about it, comment about it and we’re getting amazing access. I mean, the number of people who have wanted to be interviewed in Second Life is phenomenal and the designer accessory this year is, do you have your own avatar at Davos? And we’re giving people avatars if they want to come in and be interviewed.
AEJ: You mentioned you clients. The investment banks and the brokers are out in force this year. What are you picking up from them? What are they interested in? And what are they concerned about this year?
TG: Well, it’s been a great year in 2006. I think there’s a decent amount of optimism as we head into 2007. A lot of them have just obviously come through their budget and planning cycles and generally what I hear is, there are plenty of ideas, plenty of places to apply investment, but at the very senior levels, there’s also a certain wariness, a certain sense of how long can financial services really be this good? And then there’s also a bit of a rift going on the whole New York versus London... you know, is London really now beginning to drag jobs away from New York? And there’s been some research out by McKenzie trying to quantify that.
AEJ: Do you see that in your own business? You’re based in London, but have a huge presence in New York. Are you seeing that shift in your customer base?
TG: Our largest customers are all global and we serve those customers not on a geographic basis, but with a single account relationship all around the world and they deploy either the software or the information where they want. So for us that’s quite seamless. We’re seeing quite good growth in the US, despite whatever shift may be going on New York to London.
AEJ: Finally, you mentioned at the beginning the business community’s interest in the climate change agenda this year and their recognition of the problem. Do you think that this World Economic Forum will actually result in action being taken?
TG: That’s always the great challenge. People come to talk, but every now and then, there’s an issue that is so inescapable, so important and so important for all of our children that one is almost embarrassed into action. And I think climate change has now reach that level, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we began seeing greater engagement. I’ll be so reckless as to predict that you’ll see a US Administration enter into some form of a revised Kyoto over the next five years. It won’t be easy to get it through Congress, but I think that would be on the policy agenda, even if it’s a Republican.
AEJ: Tom Glocer of Reuters, thank you very much.
TG: A pleasure.