Tag Archives: Belo

ILM West: Next Directions in Deals Space

It’s obvious that the deals business is going to quickly move to a broader set of offerings. But how? That was the question posed today at ILM West in San Francisco.

Belo Interactive GM Joe Weir noted that deals remains a great space to be in. Demographics of Belo’s deals are dominated by college educated women with a lot of disposable income — deals users extend many missions for Belo, he noted.

But CBS Local Media President Ezra Kucharz said that deals need to change because merchants and consumers are fatigued. Email open rates are declining significantly. And merchants want a higher revenue share.

Kucharz’s solution is to provide a richer experience embracing SoLoMo (social local media) and segmenting deals differently. CBS is adding experiential deals that may be once in a lifetime experiences; aggregating deals; allowing consumer to rate and review deals.

Some things he would like to do, however, aren’t necessarily going to be easy. For instance, he might like to add more deals from big national brands, but “they are being tight with deals,” he says.

Experiential deals have also been embraced by Thrillist, a site that is geared towards young men, or “dudes,” as VP Mike Rothman call\s them. Thrillist has developed experiences such as micro brew pub beer crawls. But these are hard to scale from market to market; What works in New York doesn’t necessarily work in Detroit, says Rothman.

The most extreme position on deals was taken by Michael Tavani, co-founder, ScoutMob. The idea of “Daily deals make us cringe internally at the office,” he says. ScoutMob is a mobile service based entirely for on the go mobile users. Its customers have no idea where they are having dinner that night, and they don’t want to pay in advance for deals, he says.

The company, which considers itself a “reverse FourSquare,” takes $3 or $4 commissions for customers that it points to merchants. Instead of printing out deals, customers simply show the deal coupon on their phones to merchants.

Adobe and Omniture: The Local Perspective

It doesn’t make much sense on the surface and is something of a head scratcher. But Adobe has agreed to acquire Omniture for $1.8 billion. The acquisition is described as an effort to jumpstart Adobe’s website development and service efforts by linking it with Omniture’s analytics. Adobe’s Creative Suite includes Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash.

From a local media perspective, the deal matters because Omniture is used by a wide range of newspaper companies, including Gannett, Belo, Freedom, Media News Group, The Houston Chronicle, CanWest and Ottaway Newspapers (It also works with Cox Communications for cable). These local companies, and many others, have typically relied on Omniture to understand user navigation and click thru patterns for ads and articles. By most accounts, Omniture has been very helpful to its local media customers, especially newspapers that have used Omniture’s reports to optimize their wide-flung editorial. But the analytics space, of course, is increasingly competitive.

Is there natural flow-thru from Omniture to Adobe’s website development tools? Adobe is hoping that the two will find programming (and marketing) synergies, helping to position it alongside Microsoft and Google in the vanguard of tool providers.

It also hopes to expand Omniture’s exposure beyond its current base of 5,000 customers. The $600 million analytics industry is still immature. One projection, by JP Morgan, is that the industry will soon be worth $2.3 billion per year.

But Adobe is paying heavily for the uncertain synergies – a 24 percent premium to Omniture’s stock price. Taking on Omniture also means taking on its losses. At this point, the company is far from profitable.

We don’t know that local media companies will be more inclined to use Adobe products as a result of Adobe owning Omniture – and vice versa. Looking down the road, we’ll find out whether there is real synergy, or whether this deal goes down in history with other high concept deals such as Compaq/Zip2, and eBay/Skype.

Stretching Boundaries: San Diego News Net Extends into Riverside

Local websites don’t necessarily follow jurisdictional borders, traditional newspaper circulation areas or broadcast DMAs. Hyperlocal sites, similarly, are finding they can effortlessly extend their market reach and leverage their technology platforms.

The San Diego News Network, which has been funded to the tune of $1.8 million and whose president is former San Diego Union Tribune online head Chris Jennewein, says it is extending its reach north into southwest Riverside County. The growing exurban area is technically served by Belo’s Press Enterprise and various broadcast outlets, but considered “underserved.”

The new site, SWRNN.com, will be lead by Jose Arballo Jr., an editor with lengthy experience in the area working with The Press Enterprise and other local media.

Sales are being handled by the team in San Diego, with more sales support coming via a a partnership with the Lake Elsinore Storm, a minor league team with a sales force. The Storm is owned by one of the company’s investors.

SDNN CEO Neil Senturia notes in a release that SWRNN.com “is a natural fit. Like our San Diego site, Southwest Riverside News Network’s technology platform will give advertisers much greater opportunities to target specific audiences. We’re convinced now more than ever that our approach in San Diego, Riverside and other areas will be the way local news will be successfully covered in the future.”

AH Belo Invests in Real Estate Pay For Performance Site

Newspaper companies are so far down we don’t pretend to offer comprehensive fixes anymore. That’d be science fiction. But we do track the incremental investments that leverage their strengths and often prove to be strong profit centers in themselves.

Last year, we noted AH Belo’s $2 million investment in ResponseLogix – an auto dealer leads management program. Now we’re noting another AH Belo investment, this time in Sawbuck Realty, which takes advantage of its broker’s status to list 100 percent of local MLS listings, rather than the portion that typically ends up in a newspaper from a la carte MLS deals and broker listings.

The service collects leads and funnels them out to agents, like realestate.com does. The similarity to realestate.com extends to its guaranteed discount referrals for mortgage brokers and escrow agents.

What is unique about Sawbuck is its business model. It generally takes thirty percent of a realtor’s commission, which is the same as a typical “referral fee.” The fee may ultimately come out higher than advertising would – but it protects the agent/broker because it is pay for performance. And home buyers are guaranteed savings. The Sawbuck service runs separately from other newspaper real estate advertising, which will remain available.

Belo is leading a $2 million round, with co-founders Guy Wolcott and Steve Barnes also participating. Some of that money will be used to extend Sawbuck Realty beyond the D.C. metro area into several new markets, including all three of Belo’s major markets – Riverside, CA; Dallas; and Providence.

Just launched are services in Southern California, including San Diego, Los Angeles/Orange County and Riverside/Inland Empire, where Belo publishes The Press-Enterprise. Sawbuck launches in Dallas and North Texas launch in early August. It is also launching services that month in the San Francisco Bay area and Chicago. In October, it launches in Providence.

Sawbuck’s pay per performance model is similar to Zetabid’s model for selling and listing foreclosures, which has been a major effort for The LA Times.