Category Archives: Newspapers

DataSphere: ‘Online Coupons Prove Value to SMBs’

Local media companies have increasingly zeroed in on smaller SMBs for growth. In many cases, however, they don’t have the resources to go after them. Enter DataSphere, which handles telemarketing, content and search optimization for its growing list of media company partners, while harnessing the media company’s local brand in each market.

The company was launched six years ago by former Amazon execs, and primarily works with TV station groups in 103 DMAs. The station groups include Gannett, Meredith, Cowles, Raycom, Fisher, Local TV, Morgan Murphy Media — and as of this month, Belo and Sinclair. Earier this year, DataSphere also launched services for Gannett’s Arizona Republic – its first newspaper. Adding Belo and Sinclair have provided a significant boost to the size of its network to 600 million page views a month.

DataSphere works with its partners on either a revenue share basis, or it buys space to place its inventory. Either way, the media partners don’t pay upfront and appreciate pure profit.

The 500 employee company, with offices in Seattle and Arizona, currently has over 20,000 SMB accounts through its partners. Each account is worth roughly $200 each on average, although the value of each account varies widely. Typical accounts come from such categories as restaurants, insurance, financial services, veterinarian hospitals, dentists and tree trimmers.

While the focus on SMBs has remained the same for the last 4 years, the offering has significantly changed. DataSphere’s initial efforts were centered largely on LocalNet, a platform for hyperlocal news content effort driving traffic to local blogs and SMB landing pages. LocalNet enabled DataSphere’s TV station partners to provide a more neighborhood-centric perspective.

Over time, the company has continued to provide a range of hyperlocal traffic drivers, including local event calendars and SMB landing pages. But it has expanded its anchor offerings to focus on coupons, which incorporate more tangible direct response components. Coupons in particular, clearly demonstrate value to SMBs, according to SVP Gary Cowan. “Unlike a news story, the beauty of coupons is that the content is the ad,” says Cowan.

Cowan notes that coupons are easily exposed beyond local media sites to a wide network of national coupon sites that localize, which includes such giants as coupons.com. The coupons also can be shown on multiple partners in a single market. In all, the DataSphere Coupon Network now attracts 40 million unique users a month.

The company’s coupon business also differs from traditional coupon leaders, such as Cox Target Media’s ValPak. “we offer a lower priced solution, which can be a better fit for many businesses,” says Cowan.

DataSphere’s marketing outreach, meanwhile, remains focused on telemarketing. Its 300-strong telemarketing sales force is based in Seattle and its growing Arizona office, with the majority of the growth planned for Phoenix. But the company is also doing more with self-serve advertising. The company learned from its roots in real estate leads that “self-serve develops warm leads,” says Cowan. “It leads to upsells for more extensive efforts.”

DataSphere SVP Gary Cowan appears on the Coupons section of the Deals Superforum at ILM West, along with ValPak President Michael Vivio and Savings.com CEO Loren Bendele.

Newspapers’ ‘Wanderful Media’ Rethinks Digital Circulars

The consortium of 12 major newspaper companies that last year purchased Travidia, a digital circular vendor, has relaunched as Wanderful Media. The consortium, previously known as ShopCo., has committed $22 Million to the venture. It has also introduced a new tablet version of FindnSave.com, a site that launched last year under the old Travidia regime.

FindnSave enables local newspapers to customize a host of promotions – i.e. deals, coupons, sales, classifieds, inventory — as a single presentation. CEO Ben Smith, a cofounder of Merchant Circle, says that FindnSave is the first of many products that the company hopes to launch. The company is working with 239 local media titles, and has a presence in 47 of the Top 50 markets. It hopes to soon reach 600 unique local websites (many brands have multiple sites).

Smith notes that he’s adding new technology and marketing smarts to the company, including 15 Silicon Valley based employees, who will take a “small team” approach to development. The company has 60 employees with the majority working at its production facility in Chico, CA, north of Sacramento.

The new product was developed based on extensive talks with its 42 national retailer clients. The lean back tablet experience of its new app promises to deeply engage its target customers, says Smith. “It is discovery shopping,” supported by the newspaper industry, which he reminds us, continues to grab $4 Billion a year in ad dollars from retailers.

Smith also cites research showing that the circular form factor remains more engaging than search or display ads for retail. Ultimately, he sees his job as updating the form factor and extending the accounts.

Dallas Morning News, Slingshot (and Mike Orren) Team for Local/Social Service

Newspapers have local brand credibility and content; agencies have media expertise; and neither of them do especially well selling SMBs on today’s social-infused media options.

That’s the challenge being addressed by Speakeasy, a new local social service being owned in partnership by Belo’s Dallas Morning News and Slingshot, a Dallas-based interactive agency that will provide a lot of the key infrastructure and media expertise. The effort, majority owned by The News, is being run by Pegasus News Founder Mike Orren.

Orren tells us Speakeasy, in development for several months, includes a lot of elements from prior hyperlocal efforts, and will be aiming at higher end SMBs willing to spend $2k a month for six month contracts – a newspaper sweet spot. It will be positioned above the newspaper’s existing 508 Digital initiative, affiliated with Local Edge, which sells a search/social and display package to smaller SMBs.

Matching content to SMBs is a core initiative for Speakeasy. Content will be available from The News’ archive for placement by clients on their social media and websites.In this regard, it’s not much different than Demand Media’s effort a few years ago to provide content to Merchant Circle clients for $9.95 a month.

But archival content is just part of it. Orren says that he also expects to utilize his extensive network of Dallas-based writers and producers for custom jobs – an effort to similar efforts that CBS Local has running with Examiner.com (where Orren has been a consultant). Digital Sherpa, Yodle and others are also providing custom content aimed at driving higher search ranking and success.

“There’s obvious stuff… stories about the company; gardening columns. But there is also non-traditional content,” says Orren. “A real estate agent can create a site around where neighbors go; and local news content,” he says. A lot of SMB database content – maps of local coffeehouses or entertainment listings — is very poorly done today, he says.

Ultimately, whether unique content is involved or archives, it seems what really matters is bringing local SMBs back into the newspaper fold; efforts previously focused on SEO sales by WebVisible, Maroon Ventures and others.

2nd Street/Washington Post: Social Media Remains Key Deals Driver

Are Deals still being driven by shares, posts, likes and other social media features in an era of Groupon and Living Social Super Bowl ads? Yes, definitely, according to Second Street Media, which held a Webinar with The Washington Post last week to discuss social media and deals strategies.

Referrals, “like-gating” and brand building via social media are key to building up customer lists and pumping up sales volume, notes Second Street Director of Affiliate Success Matt Chaney. Social media has been an inherent part of deals success from the beginning,” he says. Getting consumers to “like” a deals site and follow them on Facebook helps work- around email fatigue – or at least, reinforces email offers.

Deal sites, however, need to follow up and provide something in return for the likes. Chaney cites Edison/Arbitron research showing that 58 percent of consumers expect something in return for a “like.”

NBC 7 in San Diego boosted their likes by 60 percent with a contest around “San Diego’s favorite Voice.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch boosted their signups by 36 percent with a “Name the Rally Squirrel” contest. ABC 15 in Phoenix boosted its likes from 8,000 to 88,000 with a giveaway of Guitars featured on the CMA Awards.

Webinar special guest Molly Urciolo, Marketing Manager from The Washington Post, said The Post’s Capitol Deal site adds 1,000 likes each week. The Capitol Deal has done especially well with “Get Yours Free” deals in which customers are incented to push a certain number of sales by their friends –typically three –so they get a free one. Twelve percent of The Capitol Deal’s revenues come from “Get Yours Free.”

Urciolo likes to post deals on FaceBook the night before emails are sent out; or post exclusive deals for the FaceBook audience. She also takes the page seriously as a community, posting topical subjects on local sports teams, or events; and running contests, or sweepstakes. She also recommends adding new posts two times a day.

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.

ILM East: NYT’s Michael Zimbalist on The Importance of Linked Data

The New York Times and other news organizations have been hampered by the short cuts of HTML and hyperlinks, but are now reclassifying to provide more structured, fluid data in a major development with massive implications, notes New York Times VP of Research Operations Michael Zimbalist, who keynoted Day 2 at ILM East. The benefits are immediate in terms of SEO, but longer term, provider richer product for consumers, notes Zimbalist.

“Information has become increasingly granular or structured,” notes Zimbalist. Each unit of content has extensive machine readable metadata about itself.” Fluid information can move more easily among machines and people.

In the case of The New York Times can now process the 300 pieces of professional content that it produces every day — a brick of compiled information — into multiple formats, including things such as personal editions and slide shows. “You are reaching underneath the databases the power the Web to do new things,” says Zimbalist.

The key is to move the surplus of names to strong identifiers that are linking to data cloud driven bymeta data. The Times, for instance is embarking on moving all its data to DBpedia, which drives Wikipedia, Freebase, which is owned by Google, and GeoNames.

To date, 29,000 names have been recontextualized for a new semantic platform – a “super librarian “ –, which includes 39 percent of people (“Edgar Allen Poe”) , 31 percent of organizations, 76 percent of locations (“Park Slope”and 14 percent of descriptions. “The future is bright for librarians,” jokes Zimbalist.

ILM East Day 2 027

Google Offers’ Nitin Mangtani Set to Keynote at ILM East

Here’s what we’ve been waiting to announce: Google Offers’ head Nitin Mangtani will join our great list of keynoters at ILM East March 26-28 in Boston. We believe Mangtani’s appearance marks one of the first public debuts of Google Offers, which is playing a major role in Google’s vital local strategy, along with Google Places, Google Maps and Zagat ratings and reviews.

Previously announced ILM East keynoters include Groupon Vice Chair +++ Ted Leonsis; American Express SVP of Social Media Leslie Berland; CityGrid Media CEO Jay Herratti; New York Times Research Ops VP Michael Zimbalist; and New York Magazine Digital GM Michael Silberman.

Mangtani joins Google Channel Sales BizDev Head Christine Merritt at ILM East. Merritt will provide Google’s perspective on its emergence in the local ecosystem, and the most effective way to work with Google as a partner.

The next wave of Deals is, in general, a key focus for us at ILM East, along with mobile local media, social local media, video local media, hyperlocal and locally targeted national advertising.

In addition to the keynotes from Google Offers and Groupon, we have a special Day 1 session dedicated to the next wave of deals, featuring EverSave’s Jere Doyle; Find n Save’s Christopher Tippie; Closely’s Perry Evans; and Boomtime’s Bill Bice. That session will be followed by a broader view of deals and ecommerce, which featured NextJump’s Charlie Kim; Cartera’s Jim Douglass; and Bundle.com’s Jaidev Shergill.

Other recent adds to the program include The Boston Globe’s Lisa DeSisto, who joins Boston.com VP of Digital Products Jeff Moriarty as a presenter; and MIT Sloan Associate Professor Catherine Tucker, who gives the low down on the effectiveness of local social media.

Before the show, we’re making a special trip to The Boston Globe’s R&D Lab (Limited Space, RSVP required). Or come to Andrew Shotland’s SEO for the Enterprise session, which also features SEO Expert Will Scott and Advance Digital Media VP John Denny. We’re looking forward to a great show.

Venture Capital
•David Hornik, Principal, August Capital
•Scott Maxwell, Senior Managing Director, OpenView

Mobile Local Media
• Walt Doyle, CEO, Where
• Doug McDonald, Director, dotMobi
• John Valentine, VP, East Coast, SCVNGR/LevelUp

Hyperlocal
• Merrill Brown, Principal, MMB Media
• Josh Fenton, CEO, GoLocal24
• Zohar Yardeni, CEO, Main Street Connect

Social Local Media
• Geoff Cramer, CEO, Social Made Simple
• Adam Japko, President, Digital Sherpa
• Jeff Moriarty, VP, Digital Products, Boston.com
• Mark Schmulen, GM, Social Media, Constant Contact

Video
• Juan Delgado, Managing Director, Americas, Perform
• John McIntyre, CEO, Pixelfish
• Randa Minkarah, SVP, Revenue, Fisher Communications

Deals and Promotional Ecosystem
• Bill Bice, CEO, BoomTime
• Jere Doyle, President and CEO, EverSave
• Perry Evans, CEO, Closely
• Christopher Tippie, CEO, FindNSave

Transactions
• Charlie Kim, CEO, NextJump
• Jim Douglass, EVP, Retail Advertising, Cartera Commerce
• Jaidev Shergill, CEO, Bundle

National/Brands
•Adam Epstein, President, AdMarketplace
•Pete Gombert,CEO, Balihoo
• Steve Sherfy, Local & Mobile Search, GroupMSearch
• Karl Siebrecht, President and CEO, AdReady

Elections 2012
• Andy Slater, VP, Digital Agency Sales, Katz 360

SMB Marketing
• Dave Galvan, President, Schedulicity
• Maria Kermath, Director, AT&T Ad Solutions
• Randy Parker, President, SMBApps
• Darren Waddell, EVP, Reply.com

Sign up now (and hint: reserve your room earlier rather than later).