Gannett may follow WaPo into social ads with BLiNQ Media buy

It looks like Gannett (s GCI) might be thinking about taking a page from rival Washington Post’s (s WPO) playbook. According to a report at TechCrunch, the media giant behind USA Today, CareerBuilder and other properties, plans to buy social-media marketing company BLiNQ Media for up to $92 million. The company, which helps brands execute and manage advertising campaigns on Facebook(s FB), is very similar to SocialCode, Washington Post’s subsidiary that launched last year, and could give the company a new way to bring in ad revenue as traditional audiences migrate to social platforms.

As my colleague Mathew Ingram recently wrote, the Post has been more innovative than many of its rivals with its new media projects. In addition to SocialCode, the company has launched the Trove news-recommendation service and a social reader app on Facebook. Don Graham, the company’s CEO and a member of Facebook’s board, has been vocal about going “where the readers are.”

Gannett purchased digital marketing company PointRoll in 2005 and social media tech company Ripple6 in 2008, but the addition of BLiNQ could help it make new headway in the emerging social media management space, which has recently seen heightened activity. In the past few months, Buddy Media, Vitrue, Involver and Wildfire have all been snapped by tech heavyweights Salesforce (s CRM), Oracle (s ORCL) and Google (s GOOG).

Gannett already has relationships with national and local advertisers through its many media properties, and according to TechCrunch the company has been working with BLiNQ for the past year.

Gannett Blog author Jim Hopkins says the reported acquisition could be one of the biggest ever signed by Gannett, with the other candidate being the reported $100 million the company paid for PointRoll. He also points out that in the company’s recent earnings call, CEO Gracia Martore said investments in “strategic initiatives” were expected to reach no more than $10 million to $15 million in the third quarter — although TechCrunch says the BLiNQ buy would be paid out over three to four years, with $23 million paid upfront.