Gannett Augments Digital Tech Arsenal with Social Media Buy

Gannett’s acquisition of social media services firm Ripple6 is another indication of the newspaper publisher’s aim to expand its digital businesses while enhancing its core operation. Ripple6 powers Gannett’s growing set of mom-centric local social sites, in addition to enabling social platforms for Procter & Gamble and Meredith Corp., publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, Fitness Magazine, and other women’s magazines and sites.

As newspaper and magazine companies including Gannett announce layoffs left and right, the acquisition keeps Gannett along a path of complementary diversification. “We think that businesses like that are a great way to build Gannett’s digital portfolio,” said Josh Resnik, VP strategy and business operations for Gannett Digital, noting the company’s efforts to broaden its marketing services and applied technologies holdings, both of which he described as “very high growth and high margin businesses.”

Ripple6 will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gannett, and will continue to serve clients like Procter & Gamble and Meredith. “This is really about Ripple6 continuing to innovate,” said Resnik.

The acquisition marks another notch in Gannett’s digital technology and services belt. The USAToday publisher purchased rich media ad company PointRoll in 2005. This summer, Gannett acquired online shopping circular provider ShopLocal, buying out stakes held by previous co-owners McClatchy and Tribune.

Gannett has worked with Ripple6 for the past two years in development of its local MomsLikeMe sites, which originated in Indianapolis and Cincinnati in 2007 and have grown to include around 80 sites based in places like Buffalo, NY and Sheboygan, WI.

Chris Saridakis, former CEO of Gannett-owned PointRoll — now SVP, chief digital officer of Gannett — had owned a 10 percent share of Ripple6, which was purchased by Gannett as part of the deal. Terms of the acquisition were not revealed, though Saridakis did not participate in negotiations according to Gannett.

The social platform enables advertisers to engage with social network users through “cloud communities,” essentially allowing them to create content that can be distributed and commented on by users. For example, P&G’s Pampers might create a group on a MomsLikeMe site dedicated to newborn care. That content can then be syndicated to other communities enabled by Ripple6, such as a Meredith community. Brands can measure user engagement through demographic and psychographic analysis tracking which information resonates with communities, and how it’s shared.

The firm also allows brands to create private groups for targeted consumers for market research purposes. “That’s just an entirely incremental revenue stream for any publisher using the Ripple6 platform,” suggested Resnik. Indeed, Gannett intends to offer the platform to all sorts of Web publishers, including other newspaper site publishers. “In this [economic] environment, there are a lot of publishers looking for incremental revenue,” he continued.

According to Resnik, Ripple6 salespeople will continue to sell its social media wares, while Gannett’s digital sales force will also add them to their arsenal. “It will provide our digital sales force with new offerings,” he said. Ripple6, a mid-size firm encompassing less than 50 staffers, will remain in their New York digs, close to the ad agency action. “We expect things to continue with the current Ripple6 management team,” Resnik added.

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