Publications shift ad focus away from print

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In a sign of the hard times faced by print businesses today, two major newspaper companies, the New York Times Co.-owned Boston Globe Media and Washington Post Co., have launched new business divisions that are decidedly not focused on ink and paper.

In fact, both companies have decided to focus on marketing services as a growth area. Boston Globe Media, facing new cost-cutting agreements and more earnings losses reported by its parent company, unveiled a new events marketing arm called BGM Experiential last Wednesday. Washington Post Co. has expanded its lead generation and marketing business, CourseAdvisor, and renamed it Avenue100.

The new business arm of Boston Globe Media specializes in planning and executing event and experiential marketing programs in and around the Boston area. Offerings will include sampling, guerilla marketing and consulting.

"We saw an enormous amount of interest in doing these experiential activities, sometimes instead of doing a print buy at all, and the market for events marketing is exploding for companies of all sizes while other areas of marketing tactics are not," said Ilyse Greenberg, senior manager at the Boston Globe. "I think this is a natural offshoot because we offer a wide variety of tools and ways of reaching target audiences in the area."

Boston Globe Media's sales department has had a Boston Globe Events group in place for a while. BGM Experiential takes the idea one step further by offering standalone events marketing, rather than selling events as a combination buy.

The events group has already worked with Mini Cooper, creating a brand presence at the Boston Marathon, a relationship it expects to continue. Greenberg said she saw a lot of opportunity with national CPG clients, who have not worked with BGM before but have expressed interest in creating live, local events.

"We want both local and national clients who want an expert in reaching a target audience," Greenberg explained. "We're finding that an awful lot of CPG companies are interested in what we're doing on the experiential side but have never been Boston Globe advertisers because they do media buys nationally. They need a local expert who can reach that target audience for them in way that a national program can't."

The company's past work in the events space has helped it to build a substantial database of potential event invitees and other community information. Often, Greenberg explained, events are planned around geography rather than a particular target demographic, but the BMG Experiential is prepared to do more targeting and help clients gather customer information at events, if that is the goal.

Washington Post Co., too, is reaching beyond print revenue with a relaunch and expansion of its 2007 acquisition, CourseAdvisor. Rebranded as Avenue100, the online lead generation company is looking to expand its client roster from schools and education services to financial aid providers and recruitment firms. It's also pushing into e-mail, database, analytics and search marketing services and has hired a social media planner to build its presence on Facebook and Twitter. Chairman and co-founder Greg Titus said that Avenue100 brings in $5 million in revenue per month, and handles about $2 million in media buys.

"This helps the Post Co. by continuing to grow its digital businesses," Titus said. "Unlike a lot of other newspaper companies, they have diversified tremendously. So, as the print business suffers they are insulated a little more from that because they have other businesses that are growing."

Titus said that Avenue100 is planning an acquisition in the career services space.

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