Print newspapers have been battling with competition from free online news sources like Google for some time now, and many thought the huge media companies that own newspapers would go down with them. But they're making a comeback in an entirely different way, Ad Age reports.
Take Gannett, the nation's biggest publisher. It's acquired half a dozen start-up companies and taken stakes in several others. With estimated digital revenue of $1 billion in 2009, Gannett has a couple of prize winners in its stable, including:
- Pointroll, a company that provides rich-media display ads on the web, including Apple's ads on The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal
- ShopLocal, responsible for putting Gannett $8 billion newspapers' circular business online
- Ripple6, a company that provides social networking tools
- MomsLikeMe, which operates 80 local mothering sites around the country
All these start-ups form part of Gannett's Digital Media Network, which includes 85 daily newspapers and 23 TV stations. The network officially launched last week.
Though Gannett’s stock is currently trading below $4, it hopes to emerge stronger with a diversity of digital services. The company recently took a $10 million minority stake in New York-based live video streamer Mogulus, for example.
Newspapers, like all traditional media, don't have the means to make big digital investments and are trying hard to keep at least some classified revenue that left for the web.
Some have achieved digital successes: Classified Ventures, a publisher of classified sites (cars.com, apartments.com, homegain.com), and Careerbuilder, jointly owned by Gannett, Tribune, McClatchy and Microsoft, which creates employment classifieds for 9,000 websites, including 140 newspapers.
Newspaper companies increasingly also turn to ad networks to keep them afloat. Among them:
- QuadrantOne, a joint venture between Tribune, Gannett, The New York Times and Hearst
- Cox Enterprises, owner of 17 dailies, a cable system, 15 TV stations, and 86 radio stations, which acquired tech firm Adify for $300 million last summer.
Adify provides technology that allows anyone to set up an ad network. Adify Media, launched last month, will sell inventory across those networks, creating an ad network of 69 million unique visitors that will sell Cox properties such as Autotrade, along with vertical networks such as Martha Stewart Living's Martha's Circle.
The most pronounced investor in tech among print media companies is Hearst, owner of the San Francisco Chronicle and Esquire, with a portfolio that includes UGO Entertainment and Kaboodle. Hearst has stakes in Pandora (music streaming), Brightcove (video services), TurnHere (video production), and plans to launch an e-reader optimized for magazines.
See the Ad Age article for the complete list of print media companies' investments.
Last month, CEO Eric Schmidt of Google revealed the search giant's intentions to provide a "solution" to the collapsing newsprint industry.
Prior to that, the Newspaper Association of America made a handful of suggestions for newspaper firms wishing to enhance their digital suites, such as search engine marketing services, rich media, online contests, mobile ads, lead generation, and microsites.