CBS Local Buys Eventful

Event listing sites were once seen as a leading hub for local media, and a great generator of user generated content and social media. It isn’t clear that they’ve fully caught on in these ways, but they remain strong promotional assets; sell lots of event tickets; and they also bring in related advertising.

CBS Local — the digital arm of CBS Radio — obviously sees their value. Today, it announced it is acquiring Eventful, one of the leading listings sites – and one that has evolved over the years to become a major social media player for local entertainment, and for entertainment services and lifestyle brands targeting local users (i.e. TV shows, movies, music, games, liquor and even politicians.)

Recently, for instance, Eventful created a competition among cities to host a preview of the new “Sleepy Hollow” epidode. The campaign got 30,000 participants, 18 million social impressions, one million trailer views and 35 million digital media impressions. Thirty-one percent of the participants shared their voting on Facebook and Twitter.

Such efforts illustrate Eventful’s ambition – to become “a behavioral targeting engine involving e-mail marketing and other personalized outbound promotions.” The company has been sending out over 100 million emails a month.

“The local targeting capability of the Internet and direct e-mail marketing services like Eventful helps agencies appreciate the benefits of local focus,” CEO Jordan Glazier told BIA/Kelsey a couple of years ago. “They are increasingly including local as a requirement within their buys.”

The price wasn’t announced. Eventful has raised over $19.6 million, and is said to have been profitable in recent quarters.

Eventful CEO Jordan Glazier and founder Brian Dear

Wanderful Media Targets SMB Retailers With ‘Find&Save Storefront’

When it comes to search, promotion, customer engagement and just getting found, the challenge for smaller retailers is to level the playing field with larger players (i.e. Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sears). That’s the idea behind Wanderful Media‘s new Find&Save Storefront, an App that allows SMB retailers to promote sales goods, seasonal collections and other items. Several hundred retailers have downloaded the App, which is in soft launch in several test markets. A major launch is planned for October.

The Storefront is an extension of Wanderful Media’s current mission with its Find&Save brand, which currently focuses on large retailer and brand sales “circular” information, which are distributed to about 500 newspaper sites around the U.S. on FindnSave.com and apps for iOS and Android devices.

The new effort marks the second time that Wanderful has tried to serve SMB retailers. Earlier iterations of Find&Save included ads from SMB stores. These were removed from the site’s relaunch in April 2013, however, because they were not really on par, aesthetically, with the larger retailer ads.

The Storefront App, which we found easy to use, enables SMBs to automatically claim locations by their phone number. Once their site and location have been claimed, they can tie geo-sensitive promotional offers or other verbiage to pictures of items they can take with a smart phone. SMB retailers can create as many offers or sales events as they want.

Find&Save Storefront is free to download and use, except for an “Evergreen credit” feature, which enables retailers to promote products beyond the 30 day free period for 99 cents each. Other premium products will also likely be introduced. Features that are being used for Storefront may also be borrowed for other Wanderful apps, such as its sophisticated dashboards for the business and its local peers.

VP of Product Grace Chan told us that Wanderful is poised to serve consumers and three distinct customer groups: “national retailers,” “regional retailers” and local “SMB retailers.” The SMB portion is especially relevant to the company because it has local sales forces set to hit the streets via its local newspaper affiliates.

At the same time, however, Chan notes that SMB needs “may not be exactly the same” as those of regional and national retailers and brands. Local business owners, for instance, pay less attention to brand exposure. They mostly want to drive traffic to the store. They may be less interested in issuing coupons or discounts on a constant basis.

“These merchants like to make ‘offers’ to drive store traffic, not coupons,” said Chan. Or they might simply use the site to introduce a new collection of clothes, or focus on clearance goods. “‘Coupons’ make them think they are leaving money on the table,” she says.

Placing items on the App also takes some planning on the part of SMB retailers. It takes just eight seconds to build an offer, says Chan, but many SMBs aren’t ready to sit down and do that. That’s an area that requires more attention from SMBs, she says.

Wanderful Media COO Doug Kilponen is a featured speaker at BIA/Kelsey’s SMB Digital Marketing conference Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans. You may register here.

LevelUp Banks on Smart Watch Adoption for Payments

Phone-based digital payments haven’t really taken off – in part, because they aren’t much easier to use than credit/debt cards. You’ve still got to take them out of your pocket.
The notable exception is the phenomenon of My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, which now has 10 million Starbucks customers actively using the mobile app, twice the number of a year ago.

But if “wearables” take off – i.e. smart watches and to a lesser extent, glasses – there could be rapid growth. In fact, payments are the most practical smartwatch feature (aside from telling the time.)

LevelUp leader Seth Priebatsch told Marketwatch that has always been his vision. The company currently provides an Android app, which automatically asks users if they’d like to pay by using the App when they are near favorite merchants.

“What we really always dreamed of was being the largest smartwatch payment network,” said Priebatsch, noting that LevelUp already claims 1.5 million smart phone users, who can pay at 14,000 locations. With wearables, the sky is the limit (perhaps).

Seth Preibatsch talks with Mark Fratrik at a recent BIA/Kelsey conference

Twitter Acquires CardSpring; Enters SMB Loyalty and Data Space

Twitter has made a bold move to go beyond advertising by adding performance marketing to its portfolio via the purchase of CardSpring, the San Francisco-based startup. The acquisition price has not been announced. CardSpring had raised $10 Million since its launch in 2011.

One of the big tech challenges in the payments space has been to remake the credit/debit card to a “digital receipt” product that can not only process sales, but also leverage specific SKU information, location and customer behavior to add coupons, loyalty points, events and other ewallet items. That’s the challenge that Netscape Vet Eckart Walther gave himself several years ago in launching CardSpring. The company has been positioned as a value add – some would say “middle man” — to both financial institutions and publishers providing marketing solutions for brands and SMBs.

CardSpring’s ambitious goal has been to enable merchants to write their own promotions; distribute them over CardSpring’s publisher network; and redeem and analyze the deal on their Point of Sales. The service’s “near” real-time analytics can show merchants where their redeemed promotions are coming from and what they bought.

CardSpring first got on the map via a 2012 partnership with payments leader First Data to provide check-in promotions at certain venues. More recently, it has also begun integrating with VeriFone’s POS network to enable developers to build their own card-linked services.

The launch of CardSpring Connect in September, 2013 – described as “Google Analytics for the retail world” was a milestone for the company. Foursquare and MOGL are among the most significant publishers providing CardSpring Connect to at least some of their merchant advertisers. Others include Thanx, Roximity, Moblico and OnStripe.

Twitter’s acquisition of CardSpring makes sense to us as Twitter positions itself as a real time marketing channel, and also a “common carrier” that can work widely across the board with key players in the space. This is consistent with CardSpring’s general positioning. The sale of CardSpring itself also suggests that it has been a difficult effort for an independent company to enlist partners to a middle man solution. It has also been difficult to differentiate itself among several other players providing similar features.

BIA/Kelsey looks deep at the SMB Loyalty and Data Space at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans, with such featured speakers as Groupon’s Dan Roarty, Perka’s Rob Bethge and Mercury Payment’s Randy Clark. You can register here.

A Look at Facebook’s ‘Buy Button’ for SMBs

Facebook hasn’t really been a player in ecommerce –Facebook Credits, its games-oriented initiative, was shut down in 2012 after three years of experimentation with virtual currencies. But it continues to test the waters — which is not surprising, given its volume and huge edge in social media and native advertising.

Last year, Facebook began to allow consumers to add credit card information to profiles in order to enable ecommerce transactions. Now, Facebook says it is testing a “Buy Button” with “some” SMBs.

During the test, consumers are providing Facebook with credit/debit card info for PayPal-like purchases on a one-time-only basis. Neither the SMB or Facebook ever get to see the info – all payments are being handled by a third party processor. Consumers could then opt to allow Facebook to make the credit/debit card info part of their permanent profile, using the cards for convenience.

If Facebook expands the effort – which Reuters reports is currently free for merchants — the implications could be significant. For starters, Facebook’s enhancement of its anonymous consumer profile would put Facebook on a collision with Amazon and its one-click purchase system. By focusing on the under-served SMB market for ecommerce – and likely offering a blend of virtual and physical goods — Facebook would also be breaking new ground.

Facebook’s Joseph Devoy is discussing a wide range of SMB initiatives at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing Sept. 22-24. You can register here.

A Look at Yodle’s $75 Million IPO Filing

Yodle — part of the class of 2005-2007 SEM-focused Independent Sales Organizations that took on traditional local sales organizations — filed this week for an IPO that could raise $75 Million.

The filing provides insights into Yodle’s evolution, and the evolution of the local online sales space overall, which has moved towards cloud-based automation. As Yodle notes, it not only provides its customers with an online presence, but mobile and social presences as well.

“Businesses need a comprehensive digital presence that includes a professional quality website that is easily discoverable and optimized for mobile devices, exposure on leading online directories and ratings and reviews sites, and tools to communicate with customers via email, text messages and social media” notes Yodle in the filing.

The company’s customer base currently consists of 44,800 local businesses, making it one of the largest sales groups. These customers helped it achieve revenues of $161.9 million in 2013, with the average customer of its flagship product paying under $300 a month – or less than half what they’d have to spend if they purchased similar functionality a la carte, says the company.

Many of Yodle’s customers belong to one of several vertical categories. For instance, the company reports that it has account relationships with 6,400 dentists (out of 166,500); 4,500 plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractors(out of 226,500); 3,400 lawyers (out of 165,000 ) and 1,200 landscapers (out of 459,600).

Yodle has also focused increasingly on servings “brand networks” — national franchisors, manufacturers and multi-location businesses that are targeting locally. As the space evolves, the competitive picture has evolved as well. Yodle’s filing notes that rivals for local business marketing budgets now include a wide range of players, including traditional Yellow Pages, direct mail campaign providers and advertising and listings services on local newspapers, magazines, television and radio.

Other competitors include online search engines, online business directories, providers of digital presence offerings (i.e. GoDaddy, Main Street Hub, Web.com); providers of digital marketing solutions, such as SEM companies; and productivity and office management tools, such as Constant Contact, Demandforce, MailChimp and Solutionreach.

The 2014 LMA Innovation Mission: What Tech Leaders Can Teach Traditional Media

When a traditional media executive visits Google, Facebook and other tech leaders, there is always a lot of oohing and ahhing and a bit of envy.

You can’t help but notice the great perks, such as free dry cleaning and gourmet food. Add to that their relative transparency; open seating that bust out the cubicles; first name relationships with the executive team; grand vision statements that go beyond profit; the distribution of company equity; and their trust in employees.

But these tech perks have been around now for years (and copied.) What are the real revelations that traditional media company executives can gain from a tour of tech leaders, circa 2014? That’s the question posed by The Local Media Association’s Fifth “Innovation Mission,” a six day, multi-city adventure that included on site briefings at tech and media leaders such as Google, eBay, LinkedIn, The New York Times, Buzzfeed, CBS Local, Gatehouse Media, Automattic, RussMedia and others

BIA/Kelsey spoke on last year’s tour, and we have been eager to see the report from this year’s edition. Here’s the summary: The new wave is all about sharing media; the widespread use of mobile has given rise to omnichannel publishing; and the next wave of internal communications and news gathering is quickly moving from email to messaging.

The tour’s focus on shareable media especially caught our attention. BuzzFeed – which gets 23 million of its 57 million daily views from shared posts –goes so far as to say that share data has become “the most important metric.” The report says this about Buzzfeed: “As ideas surface, they ask themselves: ‘would you share this with your friends?’ For Buzzfeed, share data is seen as a stronger indicator of audience engagement than HuffPo-like “click bait” that fools you into checking out an article, but doesn’t ultimately engage you.

What drives sharing? For BuzzFeed, the biggest driver of shared media has been YouTube; but Pinterest is #2 – much more impactful than live media such as Twitter. Facebook is also a big driver, although its impact is not immediate: it takes several days to build.

Is Buzzfeed’s relentless focus on shared media an apples-to-apples “best practice” for traditional media companies? Probably not. After all, it says its real focus is grabbing people who are “bored in line, bored at work and bored at home.” (One of its biggest traffic drivers is Miley Cyrus.) Still, as mobile’s share of media usage gains, and “boredom breaks” pre-dominate, there are definite lessons in studying its model.

The LMA Innovation Mission Report can be purchased here.