That’s right, if there’s a company that’s been betting on Barcelona for business, it is Dow Jones. They settled in the Catalan capital 20 years ago, and they’ve built an impressive team of 300 people in charge of data analysis and content creation for all their companies.
In the midst of the fake news era, Dow Jones claim to have the biggest & most comprehensive collection of business data and the tools to fight false stories being published in the press. How do they do it?
We spoke to Ingrid Verschuren, Senior Vice-President of Data Strategy, in Barcelona a few weeks ago, and she explained the whole story. Let’s find out!
They have been around for ages.
Dow Jones was created in November 1882 by three reporters: Charles Dow, Edward Jones and Charles Bergstresser, a year that sounds like startup prehistory. Since then, they’ve embarked in different businesses, mostly related to the news industry (with the nowadays famous Wall Street Journal) but also with the stocks market. Just for clarification, they sold the index in 2010 to CME Group.
Dow Jones have always had a culture of doublechecking all their findings, and have always verified facts & figures. Their department of analysis calls each company to share the real data. “Sometimes a 100-million investment isn’t really an investment. It might be a loan or a debt scripture” says Verschuren.
Their analysis department is trained to extract said data from the business owners in order to add it to the mastodontic database, and to doublecheck it with the investors and other parties involved in every operation. What’s more, when asked about why they do this, when there are other companies doing it like Startup Genome or Crunchbase, Verschuren pointed out that “… we’ve been in the industry way before them. They do a great job, but they don’t go as far back as we do, and they don’t seem to put that much emphases in verifying all the sources”. She’s right about that, and I’d like to throw in another thing: both Crunchbase and Startup Genome, just to name two of them, they only focus on startups and the hottest startup ecosystems, but have little to no data about more traditional sectors in, say, Moldova. Dow Jones do have this data.
They’ve got the right team.
When asked about how do they manage to cover the entire globe, Verschuren explained how they always hire people with very diverse origins, who are native in the languages of the countries they need to cover. A local does not only know the language, but will have more tools to know which news sources to trust.
“Our team is very diverse. Mostly people who’ve spent time abroad doing Erasmus for instance”, says Verschuren. Erasmus is a study abroad program very popular in Europe, which allows students in university to spend between 6 and 12 months in a foreign country. Barcelona is one of the most popular destinations for Erasmus, and some of them decide to stay in the city. A perfect match for Dow Jones, says Verschuren, as they provide the best aptitudes to work for Dow Jones: to know languages and to have lived abroad.
Another surprising fact is that there’s a majority of women in the office, even in management positions. Verschuren gives it no relevance, “it’s been always like this. We don’t have any policy whatsoever. If you take a look, we always try to hire people with background in languages and other related degrees, which consist in a majority of women, so the pool of female talent is larger.”
They’ve got the right environment.
While talking about the male / female ratio, the subject of company culture and employee perks was brought up. “We do not only attract a lot of women. We also retain them very well”. Turns out that Dow Jones was one of the first companies to permit remote work in Spain, which helped to allow women to extend their maternity leave and to spend more family time without having to ask for holidays. “If your family lives abroad and you want to visit them but you don’t want to use your holidays, it’s fine. Just go there and work from your parents’ place”.
Not only do they seem to have a really good working environment, with good salaries (paid internships - unprecedented in Spain!) and an outstanding office in one of the coolest spots of Barcelona, but they also work in a truly fantastic city. Barcelona provides an inspirational environment for international professionals to give the best in them, with really affordable prices and a very good life/work balance.
They’ve got the tools.
As a media company, Dow Jones invests heavily in getting out only the right data. When asked about Donald Trump and the whole fake news issue, Verschuren assures between chuckles that he actually helped to increase the WSJ subscriptions. However, the issue is bigger than what we think, as more and more people share videos, articles and whatnot without verifying its veracity. Also, deepfakes, the ultra-realistic video mashup fakes that can feature Barack Obama making racist remarks, for instance, are deeply worrying and will be a thing very soon.
Dow Jones has got some companies in them like Factiva that work in aggregating news from over 30,000 sources. Also, at the end of the interview, Verschuren assured that they’re looking at how the blockchain can help them in the battle against fake news.