Confirmed: Gannett Has Bought Social Media Ad Company BLiNQ

As we first reported the other day, the social media advertising company BLiNQ is getting bought by Gannett, owner of USA Today, a number of local newspapers, and broadcasters. The news was formally announced today.

The price is not disclosed but we understand it to be up to $92 million, with $23 million of that up front and the rest over a period of three to four years.

BLiNQ works with some 600 of the world’s largest advertisers in their social media marketing efforts, specifically around Facebook but more recently also extending into other platforms, including other social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook’s mobile efforts. TechCrunch understands that BLiNQ’s “legacy” Facebook business is profitable.

Gannett’s thinking here is that it wants to build up a business akin to SocialCode, the social media marketing analytics business that is part of the Washington Post Company. In Gannett’s case, it hopes to use BLiNQ’s social marketing platforms to complement its existing local marketing services, creating a “one-stop shop” for brands.

But the company is also picking up a hot property: BLiNQ is one of Facebook’s closer, trusted advertising partners, getting early looks in on many of the newer developments at the social network. And that means Gannett could end up developing a much deeper relationship with the social network itself.

Given that Facebook has been interested in how it can leverage the social graph and its move into mobile to do things like send users deals on goods and services near their location, you can see where Gannett’s emphasis and established business in local marketing might fit nicely.

Digital is one of the more positive stories for Gannett these days: In its last quarterly earnings, from the middle of July, Gannett reported overall revenues down by 2% to $1.3 billion because of declines in traditional advertising. Meanwhile, in its publishing segment, digital revenues are growing: up by 29.3% overall; up 33% in its U.S. Community Publishing division; up by 37% at USA Today; and up by 10% at its Newsquest UK division.

As we reported the other week, BLiNQ is not your typical Silicon Valley startup story. Founded in Atlanta, Georgia, the company has only taken in about $3 million in funding, with none of that from VCs, since launching in 2008. Part of that was because the Facebook part of its business was profitable from early on.

This is not Gannett’s first digital acquisition. Others include digital marketing agency PointRoll and online circular company ShopLocal.

As we reported last week, in addition to David Nicol Williams, the co-founder and CEO of BLiNQ, Gannett was also interested in startup’s engineering team, led by CTO, Luis Caballero, who had also built up the engineering team at Vitrue, which got acquired by Oracle earlier this year for $300 million. The BLiNQ business will continue to be headed by Williams, who will report to Vikram Sharma, president and CEO at Gannett Digital Marketing Services.

Full release below.

MCLEAN, Va., Aug. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI) today acquired BLiNQ Media LLC, a leading global innovator of Social Engagement Advertising(SM) solutions for agencies and brands. Since 2008, BLiNQ has managed social media marketing campaigns for more than 600 of the world’s largest advertisers.
“With demand for social media marketing solutions continuing to grow at a rapid pace, this acquisition is part of our ongoing transformation at Gannett and positions us to be a leader in both local and global social media marketing. BLiNQ will enhance Gannett Digital Marketing Services’ ability to deliver a one-stop shop for all marketing needs, including social marketing,” said Gracia Martore, president and CEO at Gannett.
“BLiNQ has the ability to deliver innovative and differentiated social media marketing solutions, especially at the local level, which is great news for businesses in our 100+ local communities, as well as for national brands that want to reach audiences in those communities.”

BLiNQ will continue to operate its core business as part of Gannett’s portfolio of brands, providing technology and media solutions for social advertising and engagement to agencies and brands. As part of Gannett’s Digital Marketing Services organization, BLiNQ will help develop innovative social marketing solutions for businesses that want to reach local consumers. Gannett Digital Marketing Services will fully leverage BLiNQ’s BAM 2.0 technology platform, which facilitates social media campaign planning, set-up, management, optimization and insights. BLiNQ will have a strong focus on delivering robust solutions for local social engagement at scale, including working closely with ShopLocal to help shape best practices and results in reaching, engaging and building loyalty with retail consumers via social media. Dave Williams, BLiNQ’s CEO, will report to Vikram Sharma, president and CEO at Gannett Digital Marketing Services. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

BLiNQ has had a longstanding and strong relationship with Facebook and enjoys priority access to the Facebook platform. BLiNQ was one of the first companies to gain access to the Facebook Ads API, which allows developers to create tools and services that create, buy, and manage Facebook ad campaigns. BLiNQ also is one of a small handful of companies worldwide with two Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer (PMD) badges (“Ads” and “Insights”), and one of a small number of PMDs offering premium media on Facebook. PMD Badges are awarded to developers that have demonstrated value-added capabilities that help marketers scale and achieve efficiency, and extend beyond the functionality of Facebook’s native tools. BLiNQ will continue to drive innovation across current, new and emerging social platforms, including the rapidly emerging mobile social advertising space and its industry-leading LiFT (Likes. Interests. & Fan Targets™.) planning tool.

BLiNQ’s headquarters will remain at TechSpace in New York City and its technology, finance and marketing groups will remain based in Atlanta. BLiNQ’s sales and support offices will continue in London, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.