Zixxo Tries Again with Local Coupons

Online coupons lower DM costs. And when redeemed, they’re living proof that an advertisers’ message has gotten through. But they also make up the bottom rung of the media food chain. It’s hard to get consumers to look them up, and hard to get advertisers excited about them. They can also be hard to sell.

A couple of years ago, Bay Area-based Zixxo discovered the downside of coupons the hard way. It launched a franchise model based on charging $30 for coupons, and free classifieds. But the site never really caught in.

Now, founder Mike Hogan has come back with a new, improved model. In a conversation with Local Onliner, Hogan said he has been greatly inspired by all the changes that have occurred in coupons since he first came on the scene. He noted that consumers are now routinely getting together for coupon “trains,” sharing codes, and going on eGroups to hunt for the best coupons. With Zixxo, they can also share coupons, as well as RSS them.

Why NewsCorp Barely Registers in Local

Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp. would seem to be a great contender for driving the local Internet. The Fox TV stations , in particular, have local reach across the U.S., and could theoretically anchor all manner of online and offline promotional and directional advertising. They could sell it, too.

Riding the fringes of any TV efforts would be Newscorp.’s opportunistic assemblage of Internet sites. MySpace, for instance, is being positioned as a teenage Craig’s List, with city-by-city ads focused on wheels, guitar amps, and housing. Scout.com has a different kind of potential, and is currently seeking to sell local online advertising for its network of high school sports sites.

The present reality, however, is that Newscorp. barely registers in local – and the problem starts with its inability to lasso the TV stations, including both its affiliates and owned- and-operateds. This was really brought home last week, when Newscorp. announced that it would quell affiliate concerns that their local TV audience would be undermined by Fox’s direct sale of programs over the Internet.

Classified Ventures Exec Joins Google (Corrected)

Sam Sebastian, a longtime veteran of Classified Ventures’ Homescape real estate vertical, is joining Google to develop its local real estate efforts, and to work on other local advertising efforts. I had previously reported that he was joining as head of Google Local. As Zach Rodgers of ClickZ writes, “Sebastian will not work directly on the Google Local product, but rather within the AdWords sales organization.”

In the new position, Sebastian might build bridges to newspapers. But he also poses something of a threat, since he conceivably knows all the details of classified initiatives of all the Classified Ventures’ newspaper owners, which include Tribune, Knight Ridder, Gannett, McClatchy, Belo and The Washington Post Co.

It isn’t the first time that the portals and search engines have picked up a newspaper veteran. A number of Knight Ridder execs, in fact, have left to join Yahoo.

NAA New Media ‘After Runer’

Rob Runett, known to many by his email name, “Runer,” is leaving the NAA’s New Media Federation after eight years. He’s heading to The Motley Fool, an irreverant investor site, where he’ll be working on premium services as manager of new product development.

Is there a reason to keep your membership in NAA “After Runer”? Well, Melinda Gipson is still there, and she’s a priceless resource. No one knows more about what newspapers are doing online, or lobbied harder to keep a seat at the table of online advertisers for newspapers — an uphill battle. You want Melinda on your side, always.

But truthfully, the time has come and gone for the New Media Federation. As online has become “one” with corporate newspaper operations, the Federation has become a place for product people rather than decision makers.

Roadmap for How TV Sites Can Beat Newspapers

TV stations generally take a back seat to newspapers on the Web. But they can fully compete on the Web for local classifieds, localized national advertising and vertical services, according to Broadcast Interactive President Timur Yarnall.

To Yarnall, TV stations have been too modest in their efforts on the Web, often playing a supporting role to newspapers that have plied more money and resources into their Web efforts. Some TV stations, for instance, provide weather and sports video clips to newspaper sites, in hopes of keeping the local newscast front-and-center.

But stations don’t recognize that the local Web space is a free-for-all. Stations need to play to win in an era where key markets have surpassed 70 percent broadband penetration, and video on demand is as accessible as online articles.

McClatchy Interactive Adds Details to KR Plans

McClatchy doesn’t plan any major changes for Knight Ridder’s online operations, but plans to save $15 million by getting rid of redundancies in the two companies’ operations, said McClatchy VP of Interactive Media Chris Hendricks in an interview with the NAA’s Rob Runett.

Hendricks has made a habit throughout his career of referring to “bodies” as cost centers. But he told Runett that the touted $15 million of savings from digital ops will come from dumping duplicated technology and software, along with volume discounts for hosting costs, content licensing, bandwidth and other related costs. He was less specific about layoffs, but those will probably come too.

Strategically, Hendricks said he plans to largely keep the status quo at Knight Ridder Digital. He voiced surprising support for the Real Cities national ad network, as well as for Classified Ventures, and the Tribune-Knight Ridder and Gannett investments in CareerBuilder and ShopLocal. He begged off commitments to smaller KR investments such as Topix and Tribe, however, pending further study.

Boston Chain: HyperLocal and Regional

Community papers really don’t do much online, especially when they’re operating on the fringes of a giant metro. Such has been the case with South of Boston Media Group, a Quincy, MA-based chain of two small to medium-sized dailies (The Enterprise and The Patriot Ledger) and 25 weeklies operating in the shadow of the mighty Boston Globe, and its website, Boston.com.

But the chain sees a way around Boston.com — hyper-local content that Boston.com can’t begin to pick at, and a regional aggregation of classifieds that would theoretically satisfy every user.

On the commerce side, the site features a regional aggregation of classifieds not only from its own papers, but from Craig’s List, The Boston Herald, The Boston Globe and others. “If you offer search, you have to mean it,” notes VP of Interactive Bob Kempf.