Category Archives: TV/Radio

Datasphere: New Focus on SMB ‘Adjacencies’ like Coupons, Events

We’ve long known that coupons provide real traction for SMB advertising. Nothing beats a customer walking through the door with a coupon in hand. But a lot of SMB website publishers haven’t really focused on them.

DataSphere, on the other hand,,has had a coupons product for some time. But it only recently has really zeroed in on their potential as “an adjacent space” to normal SMB activities, along with events, notes SVP Gary Cowan.

Coupons are actually easier to pull off than daily deals because “they don’t require the level of investment from partners,” he says. “They’re accessible to a wider set of companies. And they target advertising in a similar way.”

DataSphere, which is now in 85 markets with more than 300 sales reps, has taken an approach that more closely resembles “closed loop optimization,” adds Cowan. “We’re now helping businesses provide better content, and to make better offers. We tell them what the difference is between making an offer that is 10 percent off and 30 percent off.”

While coupons don’t drive the same volume as deal publishers such as Groupon, they lead to higher profitability because they feature smaller discounts, and have no commissions. They also typically run for longer time periods than deals.

DataSphere has also been focusing on exposing the coupons across a larger network of relevant sites, including “There is no reason not to publish a coupon on several sites,” says Cowan. “It all goes to help the SMB advertiser in the end, and if they see more value, they’re more likely to stick around.”

With TV station partners such as Gannett and Fisher Communications, Cowan says the focus is on leveraging DataSphere’s increasing scale to “continuously evolve and add services with clear and demonstrable value for small local advertisers.”

Small Market Deals: A Talk with Deal Garden

The big destination deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social have developed sites in most of the 150 or so large and medium markets in the U.S. How about markets with populations less than 250,000? There are 84 markets with populations between 150,000 and 249,000, and 121 markets between 100,00 and 149,000.

The major destination sites already hit many of the medium-sized markets. But smaller markets have been zeroed in on by vendors such as Matchbin, working with local media. We’ve also been closely watching Deal Garden, a five person destination site in four small markets (Topeka KS, Sioux City, IA, Lawrence KS and Manhattan, KS) powered by Nimble Commerce. Two more Deal Garden sites are set for launch: Rochester, MN and WaterLoo/Cedar Valley, IA.

The rub against small markets is they don’t have the volume to do many deals. The deals they do have need to spread out over multiple days. Moreover, most residents don’t need to discover merchants in their tight-knit communities. Many are also spread out geographically, and less attractive, demographically. There’s also an interesting theory that consumers get into the deals mode when there is intense competition among many players.

But Deal Garden co-founder Pat Lazure, who previously founded WikiCity, tells us that the pros of a small town site may outweigh such negatives. Small town sites aren’t competing with 60 other deals sites, as in Boston, and you have a great word of mouth factor in smaller markets, he says. Moreover, consumers are very loyal with excellent open rates. He’s seeing a 33 percent open rate for emails.

It is also easier to grab market share with local media buys since media outlets are less numerous. A campaign he’s been running on Topeka’s WIBW-TV, for instance, has made giant strides. Ultimately, the gross proceeds per subscriber are many times what Groupon reported in its S1.

The negatives are there, too, he candidly concedes. Deals typically need to run three days, instead of one. Also, markets are jump-started with low cost restaurant deals, where average spending is about $11 or $12. While deal averages are up from $9 at launch, they are still less than half of the major destination sites, which might see an average over $30.

Lazure figures local small town consumers need to get acclimated to the deals culture. “Food first; salons and spas second; and sky diving last,” he jokes. Local merchants are also more likely to use deal sites to drive customers to new selections or to bring them back into the store rather than to get introduced to new consumers.

Yet Lazure rejects the idea that small markets might be ghettoized as simple, one deal-at-a-time Internet deal sites, even as the rest of the industry begins to move towards multi-deal, multi-channel with lots of services. They’ll get there, he says.

Lazure also says that it is also important for sites to be truly local. Some of the sites run by competitors in his areas have tried to batch several markets together in order to get volume. No one wins when deals are spread out beyond where consumers typically shop, he notes.

NBC’s Sean Monzet: NBC O&O Sites Focus on Verticals, Social and Hyperlocal

NBC’s local websites for its 10 owned-and-operated stations have effectively lowered the average age of users from 44 to 33, boosted the average time spent on site to 12 minutes, and grown its user base to 10 million unique visitors, according to NBC San Diego Director of Integrated Media Sean Monzet, who was speaking at San Diego Interactive Day yesterday.

Monzet says that NBC’s big strategic move a couple of years ago was to remake its sites from TV station promotional websites to NBC city sites, reflecting a broader mission. A number of verticals have since been launched, including The Feast (a dining/lifestyle site); The Goods (a group buying site launched last month); and The 20 (top special interest stories).

Local properties also are encouraged to build their own, unique content franchises. Soundiego, a local music site, was launched in early 2010 and features six bloggers. It is updated three to five times a day and is San Diego’s largest local music site, says Monzet. Other local verticals include PropZero (a politics site); a site for The San Diego Padres, and a travel destination site called “Worth the Drive.”

Social media has played a big role in NBC’s growth. Twitter followers are up 300 percent and Facebook friends are up 100 percent since July 2010. “Everyone is on Twitter,” notes Monzet, who adds that staff members are awards karate style “belts“ ranging from white belts to black belts for their prowess on Twitter. Each of the stations’ vertical sites have their own social media accounts, he adds.

On the hyperlocal front, the San Diego station has partnered with The Voice of San Diego, a local nonprofit news organization. The two organizations now produce a couple of weekly segments, and are working to cover specific stories and topics, says Monzet. The arrangement has gotten national attention. Under terms of the FCC’s agreement earlier this year allowing NBC and Comcast to merge, every NBC owned and operated station is required to develop similar arrangements.

Regional Help Wanted Founder Creates ‘Digital ValPak’-like Service

Angie’s List, Kudzu and The Washington Post’s new ServiceAlley are providing group buying promotions for home and trade services. But is group buying the right paradigm for home and trade services?

Regional Help Wanted Co Founder Eric Straus says “no.” Instead, Straus has launched, which offers home and trade services the ability to include their coupons in an email flyer featuring 10 coupons. The coupons are created on a self-serve basis and cost $49 per month.

Straus believes the deal a day space has gotten too bifurcated with too much competition. They also have a difficult model to understand, and don’t really hit the sweet spot for home and trade and other “Val Pak” advertisers. “These are really DM dollars,” he says. Moreover, a straightforward coupon allows for more inventory than a main deal and two sides – the stock in trade for group buyers.

Indeed, Straus says his “Digital ValPak” like-service can reach more consumers, in part by building out a consortium among local media players, who each benefit from each other’s participation. As with Regional Help Wanted, consortium members split the proceeds equally, and promise to promote the service on-air (or on cable) with a certain number of remnant ads. Greater responses lead to more revenue.

In Des Moines, for instance, Clear Channel, Citadel, and Sago radio stations are participating, as is MediaCom, the local cable company. Although the site is still in beta, it is currently operating in more than 110 markets, says Straus.

Triton, Deal Current Launch Deal a Day for Radio Stations

The interrelationship of daily deals with TV and radio stations and newspapers intrigues us with potential. While not a big factor, traditional media companies can parlay their brand name, promotional power, sales forces –and Web sites — to reach new merchants that never would have otherwise advertised with them.

Second Street Media, Tippr, TownHog and a host of others are among daily deal white label companies focusing on broadcasters. San Diego-based Deal Current has also been working with broadcasters such as the Journal Broadcast Group among the 66 markets that it is operating in. Now, via a partnership formed with Triton Digital Media’s Loyalty Division, it will be in position to power some of Triton’s 700+ radio clients.

Triton and Deal Current are pitching a package where broadcasters and marketers can keep most of the deal revenue between themselves, with just five percent of revenues assigned for sales, tech, and administration (plus processing fees, which are roughly three percent.) The daily deals package is an optional part of Triton’s “StickyFish” program, which includes loyalty features such as contests, surveys, games and other content.

Triton Loyalty President Chris Bell tell us that Triton and Deal Current can afford to take a smaller chunk from commissions because it already has the relationships in place with the stations. “There is going to be a lot of pressure on margins,” he says.

Bell says Triton and Deal Current’s role with the stations primarily taps their technology and expertise for selling deals and sending out emails. While the stations are not contractually obligated, it is certainly in their interest to also promote the deals on air, and extensions such as their website and social media, he adds.

NBCU to Launch ‘The 20’ Top Local Twitterers

Local media brands continue to look for ways to populate their sites with local bloggers and Twitterers. In return, they provide them with a bigger platform.

The latest to jump into the game is NBC Universal, which Paid Content reports has developed “The 20” to highlight selected Twitters in all ten of the markets where it has an Owned and Operated stations. The effort, which is expected to zero in on politics, sports, culture, education and crime, complements NBCU’s The Feast, which focuses on Eat, Play and Shop content, and relies on NBC writers and aggregated content from the Web. NBC will periodically adjust its list of Twitterers.

The 20 launches after New Years in Washington, DC, New York, and San Diego and will roll out in the remaining markets throughout 2011.

NBCU VP Greg Gittrich is speaking on the Progressive Traditional Media panel at ILM:10 next week, alongside Peter Weinberger of Advance Internet and Stephen Weis of Hearst Newspapers.

CityVoter Now in 25 Cities; Boosts ‘Best Of’ With Games, Deals

CityVoter, the provider of a “best of” platform for broadcasters, is now in 25 cities, working with key TV station groups such as Belo, McGraw Hill and Tribune. The five-year-old, 12 person service, which is backed by Allen & Co., has gone through a few incarnations along the way. Most significantly, while it has an ongoing partnership with The San Francisco Chronicle, it has refocused on broadcaster partners. At one point, it had made an effort to launch its own destination site.

CEO and Founder Josh Walker tells us that broadcasters have really proved to be the best audience for soliciting large amounts of people in a short time, especially in an events driven context. The site’s TV partners have been very successful in garnering voters. Seattle, for instance, got 200,000 voters in just 8 weeks.

But with 100 categories to populate, the challenge isn’t just to get a voter in the door, notes Walker. It is also to keep them voting. The impressive Seattle quorum, for instance, only resulted in an average of two votes per person, or 400,000 altogether.

To encourage frequency, CityVoter has broadly adopted some FourSquare-like game mechanisms. Voters, for instance, may receive a voter pin (we don’t use the term “badges”) if they complete the “fitness” category on their ballot. The company has also boosted voting via mobile phone. It had 500,000 mobile visitors in the last quarter, and more than 300,000 mobile votes. The majority of these votes coming from smartphones that utilize QR codes that can send users directly to voting pages and more information about local businesses.

CityVoter has also recently introduced self-serve voter deals for businesses. When voters go to vote for a specific business, they may be rewarded with a voucher offering a discount. “It’s a way for businesses to thank people who vote for them,” says Walker.