USA Today is continuing to try to build up its digital side, as the print business struggles on, with another purchase designed to appeal to younger sports fans. The Gannett (NYSE: GCI) flagship has acquired MMAJunkie.com for an undisclosed price and will join USAT’s other online add-ons, action sports social net BNQT.com and Schedule Star, which runs athletic community site HighSchoolSports.net.
MMAJunkie will be part of USAT’s Sports Media Group, which was created in January and encompasses all sports offerings across, as well as Gannett’s 81 community newspaper properties, 23 broadcast television stations.
The purchase comes amid wider activity by USAT and Gannett in general to remake itself into a more digital-centric media and marketing entity. In Gannett’s Q3 earnings report last month, USAT posted healthy increase in technology ad spending, but those gains were offset by declines in the entertainment, automotive and financial categories. Along with financial coverage, sports is an area that online publications can more easily differentiate themselves and attract devoted readers, especially young males, and, in turn, ad dollars that follow them.
It’s been a while since USAT bought a sports site. The purchases of BNQT and HighSchoolSports were done about three years ago. But the company says it is always looking to add new sites to its holdings. Earlier this year, USAT bought the product tech reviews site Reviewed.com, a group of 12 product-review websites.
That doesn’t mean that USAT has only been fixated on tech or sports. Over the summer, for example, USAT unveiled its new books site, books.usatoday.com, which included links to purchase featured books.
Over a year ago, USAT went began a major overhaul, as that brand was being redirected to be more focused around mobile and digital and less around print. The changes at USAT initially resulted in 130 job cuts last August. More furloughs are expected at Gannett’s properties in the face of the weak economy.
MMAJunkie claims more than one million unique visitors per month and already serves as a content partner for several print, online and TV outlets. It also produces the daily podcast/radio show “MMAjunkie.com Radio,” with a TV simulcast syndicated through Fight Now TV.
MMAjunkie.com will retain its unique URL, and will also be rolled in to the USA TODAY Sports Media Group’s online coverage at MMA.USATODAY.com by mid-December 2011. MMAjunkie.com was represented by Founders Investment Banking in its deal with USAT. Release