Discussion with New FindnSave CEO Ben Smith

Last November, major players in the newspaper industry bought Travidia as the cornerstone of a new shopping strategy. Travidia had been mostly known for its print to digital circular business, but it had recently repositioned itself with FindnSave, a new shopping platform that included digital circulars, along with inventory search via eBay’s Milo.com, and slots for deals, offers and coupons.

Investing newspapers represented local titles reaching 80 percent of the U.S. population. They included Advance Digital, A. H. Belo Corporation, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., Cox Media Group, The E. W. Scripps Company, Gannett Co., Inc., GateHouse Media, Inc., Hearst Corporation, Lee Enterprises, MediaNews Group, The McClatchy Company, and The Washington Post Co.

Today, FindnSave announced the appointment of Ben T Smith IV to lead the effort as an outsider more wedded to consumer preferences then to newspaper sales requirements. Smith is the founder of Merchant Circle, and previously served as CEO and founder of Spoke.com, a LinkedIn-like social site for professionals.

In a discussion with BIA/Kelsey, Smith noted that FindnSave will have to be both a social experience, utilizing tablets and smart phones, as well as a “lean back” experience. “Shopping is not a lean forward and search” medium, he says. “It is a series of destinations.”

Smith says he plans to bring his experience as a Silicon Valley insider to bear, and in fact, will move the company’s headquarters from exurban Chico CA to the Valley. “Six or seven person teams make things happen,” he says. “We’ll have a series of teams, including mobile talent and people with a bunch of social DNA. There will also be a series of Apps addressing very specific demographics.”

Ultimately, FindnSave will serve “two constituencies – and newspapers aren’t one of them,” says Smith. “The constituencies are consumers and major advertisers. People looking for 49 cent chicken aren’t the same people who are flipping Nordstrom or Macy’s ads,” he observes.

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