May 4th, 2009

Newspapers Build Digital Portfolios

Gannett, Others Look to ‘Emerge From Chaos’ as Hybrid Print-Web Players


Published: May 04, 2009

NEW YORK ( — Myth: newspapers stuck their heads in the sand and just hoped the internet would go away.

Reality: Newspapers took some of the biggest, earliest swings on the web, most turned out to be misses, and then got steamrolled by Google just like everyone else.

The nation’s print media may be on life support, but some are quietly building digital portfolios again — albeit on a smaller scale — and some are starting to bear fruit.

We’re not talking about the digital editions of papers themselves, but startups that take old media in new directions. Gannett, for example, the nation’s biggest publisher with 85 dailies, has acquired a half dozen startups, and taken stakes in several others that will contribute meaningfully to the $1 billion in digital revenue it expects to collect in 2009. For those keeping score, News Corp. missed the $1 billion mark in 2008, even with MySpace in the portfolio.

“Gannett is trying to harness technologies so that it can emerge from this chaos as a hybrid digital company,” said Ken Doctor, news analyst at research firm Outsell.

Digital diversification
Gannett’s portfolio of digital start-ups includes Pointroll, which powers some of the most innovative rich-media display ads on the web, including Apple’s ads on The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Pointroll, acquired in 2005, is now up to 350 employees and served a billion impressions for 1,500 agency and advertiser clients in 2008.

“The ultimate goal is to transform Gannet into a real digital leader by leveraging the strength of content and the audience that it has and extending that into the digital world,” said Pointroll CEO Jason Tafler.

Other digital investments at Gannett include ShopLocal, which is putting Gannett newspapers’ circular business (still an $8 billion business) online; Ripple6, maker of social networking tools; and MomsLikeMe, which operates 80 local mothering sites around the country. All are being integrated with Gannett’s Digital Media Network, a network of Gannett-owned sites, including 85 daily newspapers and 23 TV stations, launched last week…

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