Web Chief Joshua Topolsky to Leave Bloomberg as Staff Tensions Surface
Michael Bloomberg takes back the reins at Bloomberg, and heads are rolling. This week, Joshua Topolsky, the co-founder of the Verge, became the most recent to get it in the neck, after joining Bloomberg in January:
Earlier this year, after Michael Bloomberg reasserted control over the company he founded and began to scrutinize its online operations, he suggested in a meeting that perhaps Bloomberg — which makes the overwhelming majority of its money from desk terminals that provide financial data — did not need to have a website.
Joshua Topolsky, the founder of a prominent technology website who had been hired to oversee a glossy reintroduction of Bloomberg’s web properties, responded sarcastically, making fun of the suggestion, according to three people with knowledge of the exchange, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Mr. Bloomberg, who often challenges subordinates with provocative questions, has grown accustomed to deference, the people said. He was furious, and his relationship with Mr. Topolsky subsequently deteriorated to the point that both decided it was better if Mr. Topolsky left.
Those stumbles [the ‘With All Due Respect’ TV show] contributed, said one senior figure at the company, to Mr. Bloomberg’s questioning of Mr. Smith’s media strategy. (A spokesman for Bloomberg said that Mr. Bloomberg “thinks very highly of Justin [Smith] and they enjoy working together.”) That line of questioning was on display when he turned his attention to the website. The site had been aggressively expanded, with an irreverent aesthetic, under Mr. Smith, Mr. Topolsky and Mr. [Josh] Tyrangiel, and recently broke its traffic records.
But Mr. Bloomberg struggled to understand the thinking behind some of the moves. Unfamiliar with website development, he did not seem to understand that changes were subject to delays as programmers worked on them, said one person with knowledge of the interactions. When he met with employees who were resistant, he occasionally responded by asking whose name was above the door.
Some fear, according to one current staff member, that Bloomberg, as a media organization, has “limitless resources but no real ambition from the top to be anything more than a service to terminal customers.”
Apparently, Bloomberg and his new right hand, John Micklethwait, the former editor of The Economist who was hired as editor in chief when Mr. Bloomberg’s returned. These two are pushing the website toward a more traditional design.
I bet Topolsky will head off and do something cool, while Bloomberg and Micklethwait’s efforts will amount to little. Maybe Hizzoner will just shut the website down.