Gannett Says Now Is the Time to Invest in Digital, Launches ContentOne

Now is the time to invest in digital. That seems to be Gannett’s mantra these days, as affirmed by the company yesterday. Gannett expects its growing portfolio of digital properties to generate almost $700 million this year.

“We’re pressing forward with our digital plans,” said Craig Dubow, chairman, president, and CEO of Gannett in a talk yesterday at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. “Despite the difficult economy, we believe that it’s essential that we execute on our plan and be ready when the economy returns.”

The company described its digital business as “profitable,” and predicts it will bring in between $700 and $725 million through its digital properties next year.

2008 has been a year of digital expansion for the firm, which, in light of the ongoing newspaper publishing downturn, has set its sights on branching out its digital businesses beyond online newspaper advertising. Building on its acquisition of rich media ad tech firm PointRoll in 2005, Gannett enhanced its digital infrastructure this year by launching a series of local mom-centric social sites, buying in total the online shopping circular company ShopLocal, gaining a controlling stake in jobs classifieds site Careerbuilder, and acquiring social media services firm Ripple6.

Gannett’s digital entities are not only enhancements to its core newspaper publishing business, but “frankly a business of its own,” said Dubow.

“We are building out our digital sales force to match our commitment to finding online and multiplatform solutions for all types of advertisers including the small and medium-sized business in our market,” said Dubow.

The publisher has integrated Platform A’s AdTech ad management system, allowing it to better segment national audiences and target local audiences, Dubow added.

Today, it announced its new ContentOne initiative, which, according to Dubow, will “upend the traditional thinking about content in our industry, both in how we gather it and how we sell it.” He described the venture as a system for content development, sharing, and information gathering, which is meant to eliminate content redundancies across properties in order to better focus on deep local content.

Though local ad dollars are important, Gannett — along with many other newspaper publishers — hopes to grow national ad revenue. “We are looking at the full set of Fortune 500 companies that could potentially advertise on Gannett network,” said Chris Saridakis, PointRoll CEO and Gannett chief digital officer.

That goal is served through the recent addition of Metromix to the QuadrantOne newspaper site network, which is co-owned by Gannett, Hearst, New York Times and Tribune. Metromix is an entertainment site network Gannett shares with Tribune Interactive.

National ads in Gannett’s MomsLikeMe sites, which have grown to include around 80 sites based in places like Buffalo, NY and Sheboygan, WI, are also sold through the QuadrantOne network.

Those sites run on the newly-acquired Ripple6 platform, which Gannett hopes will serve as a growing revenue stream. The social media firm allows brands to create private groups for targeted consumers for market research purposes, and Gannett intends to offer the platform to other Web publishers, including newspaper site publishers, as an incremental revenue generator.

“There’s also a revenue model when we look at it from a research perspective,” said Saridakis of Ripple6.

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