Gorkana meets...Claude Baumann, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the Swiss finance portal finews.ch
Tell us a bit about finews.ch: How does the website work and who are your readers?
finews.ch is an industry portal that is aimed at people working for banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions. We’re often referred to as the ‘intranet’ of the Swiss finance industry, because you can find everything that is going on in the world of finance on our website. We cover all the relevant topics: news, job changes, expansions and cutbacks, as well as people’s stories, interviews, commentaries, assessments – right up to the popular listicles*. We take our readers by the hand, so to speak, and guide them through the jungle that is financial news. Seven years ago, four of us started the website, now we are eleven people, seven of whom are reporters. We’ve been in the black for four years now. As far as I know, there aren’t too many news portals that can say that about themselves.
*listicles are articles presented in the form of numbered or bullet-pointed lists
When are your key editorial meetings?
Among ourselves, we often say that we’re the company that holds the most meetings. And in fact, alongside our daily editorial meetings at 9am, we also hold ad-hoc meetings in small groups several times a day so we can compare assessments, develop instant ideas for articles or make plans for the following day. Through this an above average number of articles is developed out of team work. Everyone provides the responsible reporter with their ‘mosaic piece’ here and there. This way, our articles turn out to be more original, more competent and more prompt. In short, they offer surplus value in terms of content.
You are the editor-in-chief for finews.ch, as well as a freelance reporter for Die Weltwoche, brand eins and other publications. What does a typical week look like for you?
Due to my age, I belong to the era of print media, so in my heart I still have a passion for ‘physical’ media products. And the afore mentioned publications are some of the last that still offer real journalism: longer articles with a dramatic approach, well researched, arranged thoroughly, and offering the opportunity to express your own opinion. Unfortunately these ‘little escapes’ become ever rarer, because finews.ch demands more and more time and energy.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
Being able to ask all kinds of people all kinds of questions. And being a co-owner of finews.ch, the freedom of making decisions myself – even though there’s always a certain risk and responsibility to it as a publisher and employer.
You publish content on a website as well as in printed publications. How do you see the relationship between online and print media?
Even now, at least in German-speaking regions, online journalists are considered something like the mucky pups of the industry – which is nonsense. If, on the long run, you want to make money with online content, you need first class reporters who are competent enough to add extra value to the content. Pure information is not enough to make online journalism work. This will lead to a significant revaluation of online-journalism in the coming years. Additionally, readers’ habits, with few exceptions, are changing into a digital direction anyway. It’s possible that in ten years time newspapers will really only ever be used to put into wet shoes or for firing up the oven.
Over the years, has this changed the way journalism works?
Yes, within online journalism we do more and more work in teams, so that we can come up with better ideas more quickly, and also to make the best of as many media resources as possible, meaning videos, picture galleries, audio documents, social media. For that to work you need good colleagues with whom you enjoy cooperating. This is fun since you no longer sit in your room all on your own, brooding.
Do you use social media for work?
Nowadays nothing works without social media anymore, in both directions: firstly when acquiring information, when you consciously use social media for those sources that of interest to you; and secondly as a distribution platform to make your own articles attractive for a broad audience. Social media also serves as a kind of filter for a journalist’s quality and credibility. Someone who fibs loses their audience in a heartbeat. And that’s a good thing.
Can PRs help you with content and what is the best way for them to contact you?
I wish PR would take a closer, more conscious look at their target group. It’s always embarrassing when we, for example, receive information on sports events or medical technology. We are a finance website. Additionally, as an online news portal, we shouldn’t be asked about our deadline – we don’t have one – , or whether our magazine is available through subscription. Experiences like these show that some PRs don’t do their homework. PR content should be purposefully targeted, prepared competently, and the contact person should be available at the given time. You can get in touch with us via email or our editorial team’s phone number.
What advice would you give to young journalists who would like to pursue a career in financial journalism?
I don’t want to sound old-fashioned. That’s why I’ll restrict myself to three tips: Firstly, never write about things you don’t understand yourself. Secondly, always write less than you know, not the other way around. And thirdly, if you want to pursue a career in financial journalism, it’s probably best to start working at a newswire. You won’t get better training in journalistic skills anywhere else.
You have had a long career in journalism. What is your most memorable story?
It only happened to me recently: Last February I interviewed a hedge funds manager in Singapore. I took the opportunity to tell him that we were going to expand to Asia with finews.asia soon. The manager found this highly exciting and said he’d like to join in on the project with 10 million dollars and whether that would be enough. I thought he was joking at first. He was serious though. This just shows the astronomical sums that are juggled within this industry. I told him I would think about it. I still owe him an answer. Maybe I should give him a call next week...
*Claude Baumann, born 1962 in Zurich, is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of finews.ch, the leading finance portal for the Swiss financial industry. Previously, he has worked for Weltwoche (World News) and Finanz und Wirtschaft (Finance and Business) as well as the Swiss newswire SDA/ATS. In the 1980s, he was a co-founder of the Swiss publishing house Nagel & Kimche and later founded the Swiss business-travel magazine ARRIVALS. Claude Baumann has written several books about the Swiss financial industry, the most recent one being «Robert Holzach – Ein Bankier und seine Zeit» (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2014). He’s received several awards for his journalistic work.