As Gannett builds its new digital empire, the media giant is hosting workshops in various cities bringing in presenters from Phoenix and Nashville to talk businesses into buying their expanded services. The latest menu offers everything from websites to pay-per-click ad campaigns and reputation management in social media.

We first heard about the new a la carte offerings via a client in Cincinnati, who had been approached by The Enquirer. So we approached The Star and started a conversation in Indy.

Prices are competitive, if not lower, than social media or ad agencies offering similar services – as much as $1,000 lower a month. Gannett is so anxious to sell these new services that we were told all contracts are negotiable and it doesn’t matter where you buy or sign up.

In our packed session at the downtown Star building, the room was filled with what seemed to be mostly small or medium sized business folks. There were no developers. Not too many social media gurus. At least one guy admitted to checking in on FourSquare when he arrived at 307 N. Pennsylvania Street.

Presenters left no room for Q&A, but rattled off a lot of stats and numbers about social media and why YOU need to be there, including an odd tidbit about Camel font (Google it).

The digital media world for Gannett is an interesting one. As most advertisers flee to mobile and online for better results, they’re repurposing their time and efforts.

For smaller companies without the means or the patience to tackle social media, this may be a perfect fit. But it also means tying into a similar ad agency model – with an account executive, content manager, and more typical trappings that generally smaller companies eschew due to lack of funds (or worries about control).

But the perfect fit may also be the perfect storm.

Let’s say an advertiser lets Gannett take over its social media and content. Suddenly the newspaper where you are advertising, doing social media, etc., also goes on a negative bent about bad news that hits your company and is being covered via Twitter and Facebook by the newsroom.

Yes, we all are supposed to know that advertising is separated from editorial … firewalls and all.

But they’re now managing your website, your social media, your online reputation, your Google ads, and more.

When we asked Gannett how this would be handled, we received some vague replies about flooding a social media platform with positives – or simply ignoring the negatives.

This gave us cause for pause.

As Gannett builds its social media empire, it’s also acquiring other companies to put it into place such as the purchase of BLiNQ (coincidentally announced the same day as our workshop) and its previous $100 million purchase in 2005 of PointRoll.

BLiNQ also posted the news on its site.

Hello to one-stop shopping for all your marketing needs.

Gannett also offers a “free” analysis of your social media – which doesn’t provide much detail except to tell you there’s always more you could be doing in social media.

Its assessment includes some pretty obvious stuff:

  • Listing the number of your Facebook Likes
  • Whether you have a Facebook photo cover
  • Advising if your photo shows a “brand story” and determining if your photo violates Facebook guidelines
  • Review of your custom tabs
  • Determining if your posts are inconsistent or lacking engagement
  • Whether you are pinning to your Facebook Timeline

To compare what’s out there, a top-level package from a Midwest ad agency we received quoted $3,700 a month. A similar package from Gannett ranges from $1,999 a month to $1,748 a month (set-up fees not included which could run another $1,000). A six-month minimum is required.

Here’s our take: For the types of companies who attended the workshop in Indy, this may be worth it – and it’s definitely more affordable than what agencies charge at upwards of $200 an hour.

But contracts are contracts and the devil is in the details, especially when it comes to reputation management in social media (think liability insurance and coverage). Pick your dance partner wisely.

Also note that your sales/account rep may be based in your city, but content managers are out of Phoenix and Nashville. If you want to do your business in person, then this option probably isn’t for you.

Social media models are evolving all around us with options sprouting up daily. Like any transaction choice you make for your business, shop around before you decide. Social media can be effective, affordable and integrated into your daily routine without much pain – all with good results.

  1. Curious … what other social media formats do they include in their purchase plans? Twitter? Pinterest? Twenty-somethings appear to be quickly abandoning FB for other platforms. Social media evolves quickly, and as history has proven, Gannett is slow to react (and their online misfires outnumber their hits).

    • Twitter and Facebook were primary, but sounds like they will be reaching into more pies based on acquisitions and purchases.

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