Following in the footsteps of fellow newspaper publishers Gannett and Hearst, Tribune Co. is launching its own marketing services operation. The unit will be geared towards small and medium businesses, offering social media strategy, search engine optimization, and digital marketing consulting.
Bill Adee, the Chicago Tribune’s VP for digital will head up the unit, named 435 Digital Services after Tribune’s Chicago street address. The operation will launch with around 8 to 10 staff, many of which will be plucked from the company’s existing teams.
Speaking with ClickZ, Adee said the operation will build upon Tribune’s experiences running its own range of online properties, as well as its blog site ChicagoNow. “We learned talking to some of our advertisers that they wanted to know more about social media, and it dawned on us that an opportunity existed,” he said. “We already have relationships with a range of smaller and local advertisers through our print properties. Some aren’t as well versed in digital as others, and we hope to help them move to digital,” he added.
In terms of services, it will start out on a consultancy basis focusing on SEO and social media strategy. Acknowledging the link between SEO and web development, however, Adee suggested the agency may move into development if it sees demand. “We have the ability to scale as we grow. Right now we’re still in learning, and we need to listen to what our clients are asking for,” he said.
Though the operation will be relatively modest at launch, it follows a trend of publishers branching out into marketing services, partly in an attempt to further offset declining print advertising revenues.
Hearst acquired search-focused digital agency iCrossing last month, which will form the basis for its new Hearst Marketing Services unit. Gannett has also been building up its digital marketing capabilities with acquisitions of companies such as Pointroll and social media services company Ripple6, which it merged in May.