One of the oldest push/pulls in the journalism game has to do with what business you’re in – is it editorial, or is it advertising? Ask a publishing exec this question, and you’ll usually get the same answer: News. But pick that answer apart, and pay attention to what publishing execs do, rather than what they say, and you often notice a distinct lean toward the “advertising” part of the equation. “Content” is the draw for audience, and audience is what the publisher is selling.
Which is why I found Gannett’s recent purchase of PointRoll an interesting move. PointRoll is an innovator in online advertising, so the analysis, at first, seems pretty obvious: Gannett, a mainly old media company, is making a play to be relevant in the new media world.
But if that were the case, why isn’t it buying content companies, like, er, Salon or something? Because content companies are not growing the way advertising companies are. PointRoll is on a roll; according to reports I’ve seen the company is growing at 40% a year.
So with PointRoll, Gannett makes a declaration: “We are in the advertising services business.” Well, of course they are. You need to take care of both sides of your house. I only hope, as old media companies turn their attention, and their cash, to the Internet, they see the long term value of editorial as well.