September 4, 2011

Startup will offer expertise in digital media frontier

The new marketing agency, MaineToday Digital, is set to launch Tuesday in its lead role as a one-stop resource for businesses.

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - MaineToday Digital, a marketing agency specializing in new media, will launch operations Tuesday from offices overlooking the Portland waterfront.

click image to enlarge

From left, MaineToday Digital executives Brent Taylor, manager of digital operations; Barry Jackman, director of advertising sales and marketing; Angie Muhs, executive editor; Steve Galligan, president; and Jaica Kinsman, executive producer, stand on the balcony of the company’s offices at 7 Custom House St. in Portland on Friday.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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The startup has about 20 employees and plans to become a one-stop shop for Maine businesses that want to reach customers through digital media, from websites to YouTube videos to text messages, said its president, Steve Galligan.

"It will provide a single solution for all their digital needs," he said.

The new company is a spinoff of MaineToday Media Inc., publisher of the Maine Sunday Telegram, The Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Waterville Sentinel. It is based at 7 Custom House St. in the Old Port.

"What we know today is that we are better positioned than any other company in the state to be the leader in this field," said Richard L. Connor, owner and chief executive officer of MaineToday Digital and CEO of MaineToday Media.

A staff of about 10 advertising sales representatives spent two weeks in training and Wednesday will begin working with local and regional businesses to take advantage of social media and create digital marketing campaigns, Galligan said. The other half of the staff will provide office support and production, and the agency will work with a number of partner companies for production support.

Services will include search engine marketing and optimization, and marketing with social media such as text messages, Web videos and Facebook pages.

A local tanning salon, for example, fills its tanning beds in the evening by sending text message reminders to its customers at a certain time in the morning, said Barry Jackman, director of advertising sales and marketing. With such targeted digital marketing, he said, "we can target it down to the lunch hour or dinner hour."

The agency also will design and manage websites and provide a service called reputation management, which allows a business to track comments made about it in social media and even respond directly to customers. "Anytime, anywhere something is said about them," Galligan said.

Galligan said the marketing products are intended to complement the advertising opportunities provided through MaineToday Media's newspapers and websites.

"(The newspaper) is the breadwinner for the company and will be for a while," Galligan said. "But it would be naive to think that people are not looking for other ways to reach out to customers."

Michael Learmonth, digital editor at Advertising Age magazine in New York City, said the agency is part of a "mini trend" among news organizations.

"Media companies, in addition to selling ads, are offering creative services," Learmonth said. "Why give up that portion of the creative (marketing) budget when you've got the designers and you can provide the service?"

The launch of the marketing agency also marks an important step toward a revamped Web page, according to the company.

Jaica Kinsman, executive producer at MaineToday Digital, is leading a team that will rebuild and relaunch in 2012 as a statewide "community-based, social news portal," she said.

"We want to provide news and information about the outdoors, theater and the arts, dining, travel," Galligan said.

The new site will feature content from MaineToday's three daily newspapers and the weekly Coastal Journal, as well as additional content from other sources, such as community collaborations, said Angie Muhs, who has been named executive editor at MaineToday Digital. Muhs will continue as managing editor of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram for the time being, while working toward the website launch.

"We've got really good resources in the newspapers we own," Muhs said. "We can be a central location for all of the news out of Maine."

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