April 19, 2017
It’s more important than ever to get your news from a variety of authoritative and trusted sources. With platforms ascendant, many publishers see this as a challenge. We think it’s an opportunity.
Reading a single article from a single source rarely tells the whole story. As a user, it’s difficult to zoom out and understand the broader context, what’s happened since the story was published, or how it connects to market events. Savvy readers – the kind of readers we like to build products for – often seek multiple sources and unbiased data before drawing conclusions from the news they read. It’s not uncommon for readers to open multiple tabs or toggle between apps while reading an article in order to fact-check, dig deeper, or consult alternative sources to understand varying perspectives.
A few months ago we sat down with our friends at Postlight. Paul Ford (whom you may remember from his stupendous Bloomberg Businessweek story, ‘What Is Code’), Rich Ziade, and I wanted to identify an interesting opportunity we could address quickly with an experimental product that would make the Internet better and more useful for people who care about business and financial news.
We came up with something we call Bloomberg Lens, and it represents a really cool marriage of technology from Bloomberg and Postlight.
Lens is an article enhancement tool that goes wherever readers do with capability spanning both mobile and desktop. For iOS users, Lens can be invoked from any app using the Share Sheet on a given URL or web page, and any relevant data is seamlessly overlaid in place, without forcing you to switch apps. For Chrome users, Lens automatically parses the content on any web page as the user browses the web. When Lens recognizes companies or people in an article, it automatically grabs data from Bloomberg and other sources about those objects and gently alerts the reader that there’s data to see. For instance, if you’re reading a story about Tesla from your favorite national newspaper and activate Lens, we’ll deliver additional data, context, and relevant news about the companies and executives named in the piece.
Bloomberg Lens tool on desktop.
Bloomberg Lens tool on mobile.
We detect companies and people using Postlight’s Mercury API, which is an almost magical open source web parser than can make semantic sense out of any web article. With a little tweaking from Postlight, we were able to optimize Mercury to detect companies and people. After detection, Mercury passes those objects to Bloomberg’s APIs so that we can style and display additional data, news, and more. We don’t want to pull users away from the article they’re reading – quite the opposite, in fact – so we designed Lens as an unobtrusive, flexible web app that keeps the user in control of their reading experience. Ideally Lens will make almost any article more valuable and useful for readers, regardless of who published it.
As digital products advance for the benefit of consumers, everything becomes an API. We think any business story can be enhanced by the context Bloomberg’s data and news can offer, so we set out with Postlight to build an efficient and powerful tool to make the Internet more edifying. And now you can bring the power of Bloomberg’s news and data to any news story, anywhere.
– Michael Shane, Global Head of Digital Innovation, Bloomberg Media | April 19, 2017