Gannett to Buy Ad Firm Blinq Media

Deal is latest in parade of social ad tech deals

Social advertising startups keep selling.

The latest is Blinq Media, a social media ad technology player whose suitor is Gannett Co. An all-cash deal, which a source said could be worth as much as $60 million if management hits certain targets in the next three years, is expected to be consummated today.

AdMedia Partners in New York is said to have represented Blinq in the deal. AdMedia did not return calls. Blinq declined to comment, and Gannett did not respond to a request for comment sent Monday evening. A source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, however, said Gannett and Blinq would confirm the deal today.

The pending deal, first reported by Techcrunch two weeks ago, would give Blinq access to the estimated 200,000 local advertisers that do business with Gannett. The media giant, in turn, would gain credibility in the social media marketing space. It also would put Gannett on even footing with The Washington Post Co., which has an inside track to social marketing through its in-house social ad agency SocialCode. Blinq, like SocialCode, has access to the Facebook Ads API, which lets the firms build tools to help advertisers run campaigns on Facebook for advertisers.

However, unlike SocialCode, Blinq carries the Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer badge for Facebook’s analytics tool, Insights (both SocialCode and Blinq carry the PMD badge for Ads). SocialCode can nonetheless access the Insights API to create analytics tools for brands to measure how content and apps perform on the social network and track conversions, but the PMD badges are akin to being certified in a given Facebook marketing area, including Ads, Insights, Pages and Apps. Gannett could use Blinq’s Ads and Insights capabilities to help its publications’ sales teams bundle and inform advertisers’ print, online and social buys as well as report on their performance.

Blinq, which launched in early 2008, joins Brighter Option and Efficient among the Facebook ad vendors to sell in the past nine months. Buddy Media acquired Brighter Option in February and Adobe picked up Efficient Frontier in November 2011. Blinq employs about 50 staffers at offices in New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and London. New York is the headquarters, and Atlanta is a hub for technology, finance and marketing.

A Blinq acquisition would leave Adaptly, Nanigans, Optimal and TBG Digital among the major independent Facebook ad vendors. However, of those five, only Adaptly has access to the Ads and Insights APIs. In fact, Adaptly and Blinq are two of only seven Facebook Preferred Marketing Developers with access to those APIs. Buddy Media and Adobe are also in that group, thanks to their respective acquisitions.

As for the bigger picture, M&A activity in the social media ad tech space has been particularly hot this year, with Wildfire selling to Google last month, Buddy selling to Salesforce in June, Oracle acquiring Virtue in May and even Adknowledge acquiring AdParlor last November. Those deals were for companies that primarily focus on the content creation and management—or earned media—side of social marketing, whereas Blinq falls firmly into the social ad—i.e., paid media—camp. So, while the deals have flowed freely, the types of buyers and sellers certainly have changed, putting pressure on companies eyeing entries into the space.