Feb 16, 2021 - Economy

Exclusive: Gannett, McClatchy team up to sell ads

Illustration of hand cursor holding a newspaper roll

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Two of the country's biggest local news companies are joining forces to sell national ads to their combined reach of over 300 local communities.

Why it matters: There aren't many great options for Fortune 500 companies to buy ads at the local level without having to transact with hundreds of different outlets individually. This partnership aims to address that problem.

  • "For a long time, our company has been largely unsuccessful in capturing national advertising directly," says Tony Hunter, Chairman and CEO of McClatchy, home to 30 local newspapers including Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star and The Sacramento Bee. "It's fragmented and national advertisers want something seamless and turnkey."

Details: Gannett's USA Today national sales team will lead the go-to-market strategy on behalf of both companies. It will take the lead on pitching clients and agencies about the new partnership, which is being dubbed the "combined power of local."

  • "In bringing together two of the largest local media companies to partner, we'll reach over 200 million adults consuming local across country," says Gannett Chief Revenue Officer Kevin Gentzel.
  • The USA TODAY network is the largest local digital media network in the country, with roughly 145 million unique visitors per month, per Comscore.

Several new ad products will help national brands reach local audiences across the local news sites from the combined Gannett and McClatchy portfolios.

  • One Gannett ad product, called Paramount, which allows national advertisers to run big, flashy mobile ads across hundreds of local sites at once, will be made available to run across McClatchy's sites. (The ad unit can also run on desktop.)
  • It's also launching a new ad product called "Good news near you" that lets national advertisers only run ads against positive local news across both networks, avoiding topics like crime or politics.
  • For now, the companies don't plan on integrating their ad stacks.

Be smart: Because McClatchy doesn't have a main national newspaper like Gannett does in USA Today, its efforts to reach national advertisers will get a big boost from the partnership. McClatchy was bought by a New Jersey-based hedge fund last year as a result of its bankruptcy auction.

  • "It's getting us into the game," says Hunter. "It's highly additive from a strategic standpoint."

Catch up quick: Companies like The Washington Post and Vox Media are trying to create local ad networks.

  • They mostly have to partner with other local outlets to get access to their ad inventory. Concert does include some local brands, including SB Nation communities and Eater's city sites.

The big picture: Gentzel says 2020 was a turning point for Gannett because of renewed marketer focus on local audiences.

He notes this helped to propel USA Today's national ad business to grow in 2020. This was especially true for political and issue advertisers looking to target local communities during an election year.

  • "Imagine the demand for online video inventory in an election year in a state like Florida where so much is at stake."

What to watch: In the coming months, the two local media giants hope to build a combined first-party data set that they can use to better target those ads.

Because both companies have been investing more in digital subscriptions, both will have more access to data from consumers directly. As of last year, Gannett has over 1 million digital subscribers.

What's next: In the future, Gentzel says this could be the start of building out a mega-local ad sales network. "This partnership could be an opportunity to grow and expand even further with other local media companies into the future."

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include clarification about Vox Media's local brands.

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