Tag Archives: Ben Smith

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.

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.

MerchantCircle Buys Scheduling Company

Scheduling is seen as the next wave of online marketplace services for SMBs, encouraging sticky usage, premium features and, in some cases, highly contextual advertising. Scheduling vendors such as Agendize, Full Slate, MaxiPage and X-Time are actively syndicating solutions.

Jumping aboard the scheduling trend is MerchantCircle, the SMB services company with 1.3 million registered SMBs. It announced today an all-cash acquisition of TimeBridge, an online meetings facilitator that incorporates scheduling among its other solutions. TimeBridge represents MerchantCircle’s first acquisition.

CEO Ben Smith told us that MerchantCircle will use TimeBridge to incorporate a free, simple-to-use scheduling service for its merchants. While TimeBridge is not primarily a scheduling platform, over time it has acquired 25,000 SMB customers over time. “We knew (scheduling) is something we’d have to have at some point in time,” said Smith.

Ultimately,TimeBridge’s value may be its use as an in-house technology vendor. CEO Yuri Nelkin is bring brought on as CTO of Merchant Circle, and the expectation is that his five-person Israeli team will work on a number of development projects for MerchantCircle. Meanwhile, TimeBridge will continue to exist as a separate entity.