The line between publisher and ad agency blurred a bit further today with the announcement that The Washington Post Company had launched SocialCode, a subsidiary that will help brands build and monetize their presence on Facebook.
SocialCode is the latest attempt by the Washington Post Company to find new sources of revenue as its newspaper business contracts. In 2007 it acquired Course Advisor (now known as Avenue100), which helps pair job seekers with employment opportunities. In 2010 the paper shut down its New York, Los Angeles and Chicago bureaus to focus its efforts on local news (and local advertising).
There is precedence for newspaper and magazine companies getting into the ad agency business. In July, the Tribune Company launched a marketing services operation called 435 digital services, and in June, Hearst acquired search-focused digital marketing agency iCrossing.. At risk is the traditionally symbiotic relationship between publishers and ad agencies, as the two become competitive.
But this is almost certainly the first time a newspaper company has launched an ad agency focused entirely on a single platform. SocialCode, which will be housed within the Post Company’s Slate group, employs propriety technology that provides competitive analysis, app development, fan page management, social commerce, and fan monetization to marketers looking to make the most of their Facebook presence, according to a release.
While it may seem odd that SocialCode is laser-focused on Facebook, there is some history there: Washington Post Chairman Don Graham has been on the board of Facebook since December 2008, and the Post was one of the first publishers to become active on Facebook.
“We know the technology and we know what works, so we can design campaigns that enable brands to make the most of their advertising and marketing dollars on Facebook,” said SocialCode general manager Laura Graham O’Shaughnessy in a statement.
SocialCode received a “soft launch” in July, according to the company. It has since grown from two to 10 employees. The release mentioned “launch partners,” but did not provide client names. SocialCode is also a participant in the beta Facebook Ads API program.
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