Tag Archives: The Washington Post

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.

The Washington Post Unveils ‘Service Alley’

The Washington Post continues ramping up its vertical strategy, launching Service Alley to provide leads for home and trade professionals. The site, which is a standalone and not directly linked to Washingtonpost.com, follows the launch of other Post verticals, such as Capitol Dish.

The site serves Washington D.C., and the Virginia and Maryland suburbs as well. It efficiently divides listing categories in three main groups: “Cleaning Services,” “Inside the Home” and “Outside the Home.” It features full-fledged directories of providers built on licensed data; and a “Coupons in Washington D.C.” section.

In addition to procuring leads for home and trade providers, the service also has weekly deals of service providers with a strong viral element. If three friends buy a deal based on your recommendation, the deal is free for you. Only businesses that have been well reviewed are allowed to participate.

The site also has a convenient list of your own favorite providers that you can use for reference (although, in the spirit of review generation, it might be better to have made it a list of providers that you have actually reviewed).

Service Alley has also been designed to maximize its use of social media. Users can connect with their friends and neighbors via FaceBook, and check out their recommendations in Service’s Alley’s directory, which is built from licensed data.

Currently, there are two tiers of participation for service providers. The free basic tier gives three free leads, some basic info, and charges $9 every time a coupon is activated from the coupon directory. A “pro” tier is $30 a month (or $300 per year) and enables unlimited leads, multiple listings in different categories, testimonials and awards listings; and a discounted $3 coupon activation rate.

Interestingly, the engine that powers Service Alley is provided by TeachStreet, the Seattle-based site that connects consumers with classes and teachers. While Teach Street remains focused on its own fast-growing activities, it turns out to have an engine that is totally compatible for home and trade providers, says The Post’s Tim Condon, who is director of new digital ventures.

Condon tells us that The Post determined that there was plenty of room for a new entrant for home and trade in town, and that it was time to get back in the water. The Post had tried out a number of home and trade-focused dotcom projects over the years, including a big effort with BigBook in 1998.

The Washington metro area, of course, with its strong demographic profile, is one of Angie’s List’s best markets. But home and trade leaders such as Angie’s List and Service Magic are relatively closed systems, says Condon. To use them, you either have to be a member or accept the leads they give you.

By jumping in the water now, The Post beat the likely entry of other home and trade sites, such as Red Beacon, ThumbTack, LikeList and HelpHive. It also gets a jump on efforts by existing providers such as Kudzu and ServiceMagic. The challenge – as it is for all these services – is to ramp up the sales efforts for this hard to reach but valuable segment.

The Post’s Tim Condon is a featured speaker at ILM East in Boston March 21-23.

Washington Post Goes With Deadline Deals for ‘Capitol Dish’

The competition among white label “deal a day” providers is increasingly intense. At the same time, local media companies are beginning to verticalize their deal a days to differentiate themselves.

Case in point is The Washington Post, which has rolled out “The Capitol Dish,” a website and newsletter offering dining deals to DC-area restaurants. The Post has teamed up with Second Street Media’s Deadline Deals product.

The vertical product is in addition to The Post’s Daily Deal arrangement with Living Social, which includes some exclusive deals, but does not focus in on a specific vertical, or utilize The Post’s sales force.

Deadline Deals is currently being used in over 50 markets by a number of Lee Enterprises newspapers, including The St. Louis Post-Dispatch; as well as a number of TV stations. One feature of Deadline Deals that stands out is that it tightly integrates an email solution for sending subscribers an update about each day’s deals.

It also includes integrated maps, data export and reporting, consumer support, and credit card processing. Second Street Media, which is the parent of Deadline Deals, figures that local media partners are taking in between $10,000 and $40,000 a month in new revenues from its deals.

Real Estate Coup: The Washington Post Quits HomeFinder for Trulia

The Washington Post is switching its local real estate search from Classified VenturesHomeFinder.com to Trulia. The switch takes place in April, and is being announced just after Classified Ventures’ introduction of the Home Finder brand, which replaces the HomeScape brand.

The move from a Classified Ventures, Inc. (CVI) product is somewhat surprising, in part because The Washington Post Co. is a CVI shareholder, along with several other newspaper companies. CVI also runs Cars.com, HomeGain and Apartments.com. A Post spokesperson says that the company will continue to work with Cars.com and maintains its relationship with CVI.

While The Post has a history of paying top dollar to customize vendor products, Trulia CEO Pete Flint notes that Trulia’s price – “free,” with shared advertising revenues – appeals to newspapers during this economic downturn. Trulia already works on a “free” basis with 150 local media properties, including The St. Petersburg Times, The Bakersfield Californian, The Press of Atlantic City, and various TV station sites from Fisher Communications and Belo.

Pricing may, in fact, have been pivotal in the decision. Classified Ventures raised feeds for Cars.com as it became a strong national brand. Some non-owner affiliates resisted those price increases. Up to now, however, CV’s owners haven’t generally cut ties (unless you count The New York Times Co., which has sold its interest in the consortium several years ago).

Flint told us that he sees the signing as “a great vote of confidence” in Trulia’s search technology. Users can refine their search results on Trulia based on criteria such as open houses, neighborhood, price, property type and new listings. Users can also view detailed maps, local price trends, property descriptions and other buy/sell related info. Noting that Trulia is co-branding the real estate site with The Post, Flint added that “we are very much looking forward to collaborating on their content and sales relationships.”

In making the deal with The Post, Trulia antes up the competitive front against Zillow, which is working with certain members of Yahoo’s Newspaper Consortium (and others) on real estate search and services. Zillow recently indicated that its partnership with the newspapers, while promising, is unlikely to have a very large impact on its business. According to ComScore, Zillow and Trulia are basically tied in monthly traffic with a million unique visitors (in general, audience counts for real estate sites widely vary.)

While Trulia has a national sales force, The Washington Post “has a very strong local sales force,” said Flint. “This really allows us to extend our reach in the DC market. It is a bigger deal (for Trulia) than any other.”

Flint also noted that Trulia has been in talks with The Post for “a couple of years,” although only seriously for the last four months – or roughly double the tenure of new GM Goli Sheikholeslami, who took over last July. The deal does not include any syndication efforts across Trulia’s network for WaPo content, including columns from real estate legal authority Kenneth Harney and others, but it could become part of a broader deal in the future.

Curley on HyperLocal, The WaPo, and the Vegas Venture

Some industry bloggers like to throw “Google” in the title to get some attention. For me, it is “Hyperlocal.” And somewhere in the middle of any discussion of hyperlocal is Rob Curley.

The hyperlocal maestro has taken his Web 2.0 experimentations (videos, maps, databases, photo galleries, blogs, citizen journalism, pictures of local girls) in rapid fire succession from Augusta, GA to Lawrence, KS, to Naples, FLA before finally hitting the “big time,” 20 months ago, with The Washington Post.

The Post, for him, was probably a mixed experience. It is now history as he and his “Curley team” of nine persons who have followed him from market to market export themselves to sweltering Las Vegas. They’ll be working on The Las Vegas Sun and other Greenspun Media sites in the area. Curley has a budget to hire 40 + people for the Vegas ventures.

I spoke with Curley last night to talk about why he’d leave a place that is considered a pinnacle of journalism to move to Las Vegas, which might be a good place for George Clooney to party on weekends but is no “Brooklyn” full of community publishers, if you know what I mean.

Curley’s spin is that having a free rein to develop hyperlocal across a set of Vegas media properties plays to his strengths. In addition to webifying The Las Vegas Sun, he is set to begin work on The Las Vegas Weekly, an alternative newspaper; and also a broadcast property.

He takes pains to note that Vegas isn’t exactly a backwater. It is now a top 50 market. And it not just a rootless place of telemarketers and casino workers, as I crudely suggest. “If you live here, there is community,” he insists.

TV and video, in fact, are a big part of his ambitions now. He says he learned some hard truths from failures in TV in Naples four or five years ago, and is ready to build some great community video now. If Naples had been a success, video would have just trudged along. But instead, something more radical will be developed. And the page views are up there now to be monetized from advertising.

As for The Post, which has spent generously to develop hyperlocal, Curley says it remains well positioned to rollout its next phase of hyperlocal with fairfaxextra.com, which is rolling out this summer. It will be a pivotal effort for The Post, which has traditionally been more oriented more towards DC and its Maryland suburbs, where its staffers tend to live, than its Virginia suburbs (when I lived in Virginia, I called it “The Bethesda Post”).

One lesson from Curley’s initial effort, Loudonextra.com, however, was the need to be more granular. “We geocoded everything in Loudon from Day 1” but that wasn’t enough. There is a big difference from suburban South Riding and Chantilly to Middleburg in fox country, he notes. Fairfaxextra.com will additionally have 22 or 23 URLS especially dedicated to specific communities, rather than the single URL for Loudon County. This will be more akin to the model set by BackFence.

Curley says he doesn’t expect the sites to radically change in the near-term, but over time, it is likely that they’ll be better integrated with The Post. The lack of integration has been an ongoing problem, he acknowledges.

On a personal note, Curley says that his departure was not a surprise to The Post’s leadership, but that they had asked him to stick it out, which he did. His core group of staff, which has followed him from market to market, however, began flowing to the Las Vegas Sun in January. There was nothing secret about it, he says. It just wasn’t a cultural fit. He wasn’t appreciated by everyone. (and I don’t know enough to take sides here).

Curley also says that he believes that The Post’s leadership is as committed to hyperlocal as ever. The Post’s leadership at the top – Don Graham and Katherine Weymouth — is “all about giving readers content that they would like to read every day.” He also notes that the community sites will still be managed by Henry Tam, who was working side by side with his team. “He really gets it.”

Note: In my original post from yesterday, I inaccurately noted that LoudonExtra.com hadn’t yet rolled out high school sports (Hence, a few notes in the comments). In fact, high school sports have been a core focus of the site from the launch last fall. The section has got the full Curley play of video, photo galleries and blogs.