Gannett takes stake in digital media firm Grateful Ventures

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gannett Co Inc, publisher of USA Today, said on Wednesday it has made its first major investment outside of news with a majority investment in Grateful Ventures, an online media company that focuses on lifestyle content including videos about food and cooking.

The corporate flags for the Gannett Co and its flagship newspaper, USA Today, fly outside their corporate headquarters in McLean, Virginia, July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Gannett, which also owns local newspapers and websites across the United States, is looking to expand its audience as the print media industry struggles with declining advertising and circulation revenue, and younger audiences increasingly read news and watch TV online.

The investment is less than $10 million, Gannett said, declining to provide specifics.

Grateful Ventures will initially produce videos and content about food and cooking that will appear on Gannett websites and other social media, said Maribel Perez Wadsworth, Gannett’s chief transformation officer.

There is potential to expand to beauty and health and wellness, she said.

The categories will help Gannett increase its female audience, Wadsworth added, which is a coveted demographic for some advertisers.

“Our aim is to become a daily destination for our audience, so tapping into lifestyle will help that,” she said.

The companies plan to use a variety of advertising strategies to make money from the videos. Those include working with internet cooks who have a wide following and producing branded content, Grateful Ventures chief executive Kyle Cox said in an interview.

Other newspaper companies have also ramped up content outside of news, such as The New York Times Co, which introduced a separate digital subscription for its NYT Cooking website in June.

Because Gannett owns papers and websites in 34 states across the country, the partnership is unique in that it can closely reach a millennial audience in a variety of markets, Cox said.

“We have an opportunity to tap into the millennials across the country, versus hearing only what the media companies on the coast are saying,” he said.

Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Alden Bentley