Though still without a chief digital officer since May, Gannett (NYSE: GCI) is continuing to broaden its online strategy. The McLean, Va. company is bringing its HighSchoolSports.net to its Gannett Digital Network and will create 100 hyperlocal sites that will be co-branded with its community papers. Gannett hopes to reach about 9.4 million users with this hyperlocal extension as it also works on rounding out its digital marketing plans for the areas it operates in. In addition, Gannett flagship USA Today will also be able to tap that additional local coverage.
Gannett has had a controlling stake in HighSchoolSports’ parent, Schedule Star, for nearly three years. For the most part, Gannett used the property to add to its local papers’ and TV stations’ sports coverage as it was in the midst of a massive series of job cuts and mandatory furloughs that occurred between 2007 and 2009.
During that rough period, Gannett focused much of its social media energies on the MomsLikeMe.com network. Sports was natural extension, but getting the most out of HighSchoolSports.net wasn’t much of a priority. That appears to be changing, especially as the company’s finances have improved a bit — thanks mostly to deep cost-cuts –n along with the ad market. In particular, Gannett has been getting more aggressive about rolling out various regional and social marketing initiatives, such as GannettLocal, which launched in May as a way to connect with local marketers in ways that weren’t directly tied to the company’s content.
This current sports effort will begin this month in 38 Gannett media markets, including Atlanta, Washington, DC, and Denver, CO. The full rollout is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. Release