Ask any Bloomberg terminal user how to find OPEC news and they will say: NI OPEC.
Almost no one knows what “NI” stands for or where it came from.
The NI prefix before a news search on Bloomberg is akin to the CTRL-ALT-DEL feature on Microsoft applications: so useful and ingrained in muscle memory that no one stops to think about how strange it is.
The answer is that NI is short for “news industries.”
It was a command Bloomberg adopted in 1986 when Dow Jones content was added to the terminal.
By 1990, when Bloomberg News was created, articles about companies were tagged with tickers while stories about topics were tagged with a small number of NI codes.
The shortcoming of the system became obvious as Bloomberg expanded.
In 1992, when we started news coverage of Latin America, we needed a way to tag stories by country.
But countries were not considered topics.
We “solved” the problem by creating faux numeric equity tickers. For example, the code for Mexico was 3105Z.
So clients looking for Mexico stories would type 3105Z Equity CN. (You can still find examples at the bottom of stories from the early 1990s.)
It’s worth dwelling on the randomness of assigning a country a number code like 3105z.
It doesn’t exactly roll off anyone’s tongue.
But it got the job done and so much of product development is like that.
After a year or so we decided to create a topic code for Mexico. We added similar codes for other countries.
It was initially painful because it meant we temporarily lost back history. Eventually stories were re-tagged.
Just like CTRL-ALT-DEL, the NI topic codes, however ungainly, worked remarkably well.
The more recent introduction of natural language processing and autocomplete means clients no longer have to type “NI” before searches.
But many clients still do so out of habit.
There are now thousands of topic codes. The most recent code we created was NI KRAKEN.
No, its not for stories about the legendary sea monster from Norse sagas nor about releasing the Kraken.
It refers to the expansion hockey team based in Seattle.