OwnLocal’s acquisition today of Wanderful Media marks the end of an era, as Wanderful Media’s newspaper and TV owners basically stepped away from efforts – as a combined, industry group — to control the next generation of value added local merchant advertising, deals and coupons.
OwnLocal, which is independently owned, will leverage hundreds of Wanderful Media newspaper accounts and its advanced mobile app services to move ahead with its own value-add, “Print SEO” efforts for local circular and deal/coupon advertising, including social media, new display ads, directories, event listings and email marketing.
Wanderful Media had initially been developed by an all-star group of 12 newspaper companies in 2011 on the backs of Travidia, a digital ad converter that had developed Find&Save as a next generation coupon portal. Prior to such efforts, newspapers ads weren’t searchable — putting them at a major disadvantage.
The ownership consortium included Cox Media Group, The E.W. Scripps Company, Gannett Co., Hearst Corporation, MediaNews Group, The McClatchy Company and The Washington Post Co.
For the newspapers/local media companies, backing Wanderful’s development as a comprehensive shopping solution for SMB, regional and national/brand advertisers was an alternative to relying on ShopLocal, a Gannett property unable to score a home run in the marketplace. It also competed against other promotion platforms, such as Second Street Media and Paper G.
To develop its efforts, the consortium managers brought in Ben Smith and Doug Kilponen from the entrepreneurial MerchantCircle team. Smith and his team ultimately raised $50.5 Million and focused on customized app building for several brands. These included Find&Save; Find&Save Storefront, an app for SMB sales; Cash Dash, which enabled consumers to get rewards at network merchants in return for sending in digital receipts; and Coffee Table, an iPad retail catalog. The team also extended the reach of Wanderful’s brands beyond the newspaper owners to include broadcasters and Yellow Pages.
Despite strong local newspaper promotion and sales and TV advertising, the company’s brands never really caught on and had trouble competing against other major shopping entities. While Wanderful is said to be operating at a profit, it had gone through layoffs – a team of just 10 employees will initially be moving on to OwnLocal. At one time, Wanderful employed more than 60 employees.
Ultimately, Wanderful Media’s disappointing results may have been a broader reflection of the newspaper industry’s growing weakness with consumers; lack of cohesiveness among the consolidating ownership group; lack of clout with advertisers – especially on the digital side; and fragmentation among various vendors. OwnLocal should do much better with it and will especially capitalize on some of the large newspaper brands being brought into the fold.