ILM:10: Groupon, Angie’s List and Gannett Phoenix Discuss Deal a Day

In the wake of Groupon‘s rejection of Google’s reported $6 billion offer, Groupon VP of Business Development Sean Smyth told ILM:10 attendees that one positive aspect of the news coverage was the incredible exposure that Groupon received. “We had three million new email subscribers last week,” he said. “We normally get one million per week.”

Smyth, a media vet with prior stints at MetroMix, Gannett and Tribune Interactive, said that the headcount at Groupon is now up to 3,000 employees, with half of those in sales – both telemarketing and premise. Groupon covers 300 markets, with 165 of those in North America. It is currently running 650 deals a day, with 260 in North America.

“It is an absolutely amazing space to be in,” said Smyth. But it is also fast evolving well beyond simply offering two or three deals a day (and a banner ad) in emails. Currently, the company is focused on verticalizing and personalizing efforts, as well as developing specialized features for SMBs that would allow them to control deal flow, contacts and promotional creative. “We’re trying to find different ways to get deals in front of people,” says Smyth, noting recent affiliation deals made with Yahoo, eBay, Tribune Gannett and Media General. “We love having 40 million email addresses. But if you don’t get the right deal to the right person at the right time, it doesn’t mean squat.”

Speaking on the same “Deal a Day Superforum,” Angie’s List VP Mike Rutz said his company sees deals as a natural extension of its SMB advertising. “We have been offering coupons for 15 years,” he said. In fact, having a coupon is a requirement of being an advertising on Angie’s List.

With Angie’s List Big Deal, which launched six months ago, Angie’s List opens the deal beyond its member fire wall, but members gets a discount above and beyond the standard offer. It is a great acquisition tool for membership, and also provides enhanced value for members, says Rutz.

At the same time, it is a great retention tool for advertisers, and helps build out their profile with a horde of new reports. “Ninety-six percent who ran a Big Deal have stuck with us”, he says.

Gannett Phoenix’s Mike Coleman added that his company’s new DealChicken.com is also taking the newspaper in some new directions, having attracted 40,000 local users in its early months. On the merchant side, “it is a very different sales conversation with a merchant.

Indeed, Deal Chicken is only sold by a dedicated staff in the division, as well as by Gannett Local, the company’s new SEO/SEM arm. The core newspaper staff isn’t involved at all. “They already have too many products to sell,” he said.

The model seems to be a winner. “There is huge interest at other Gannett properties,” he said.

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