Tag Archives: Travidia

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.

New Newspaper Consortia Rolls out Shopping Platform; Acquires Travidia

A big chunk of the newspaper industry has banded together to adopt Find n Save, a shopping platform featuring a single place to review deals, product inventory, weekly specials, “cents off” grocery deals and local ads.

Participating newspaper companies include many of the companies participating in the Yahoo search and national advertising consortia and the Zillow real estate consortia. They include Gannett, Media News Group, McClatchy, Advance, Hearst, Cox, A.H. Belo and The Washington Post. More than 200 newspaper titles are involved in all.

Find n Save was launched last year by Travidia, a newspaper services vendor that has specialized in digital conversion of circular ads as well as directory solutions. The consortia is purchasing Travidia as part of the deal.

The conversion of the multi-billion dollar newspaper circular business to the digital age has been a tough one, although potentially lucrative. Chains such as Radio Shack, Target, Frys Electronics and others have increasingly looked to spend outside of traditional newspaper channels as print circulation has declined.

Moreover, the way that shoppers look for information has dramatically changed due to the ability to search for specific products and deals on the Internet. Most online circular solutions have not been fully searchable.

Early versions of Find n Save have tried to meet these changes by offering a one stop, fully-searchable solution. The concept has been especially championed by McClatchy. As of today, the initial launch of Find n Save is live in 19 markets, and will be in 21 markets by the end of the year.

For the newspaper industry, the question has been whether to get behind Find n Save, or Gannett-owned ShopLocal, which has many national accounts and has been similarly evolving. Gannett’s participation in Find n Save suggests they will seek to form a complementary solution. Another shopping solution that may prove complementary is AP’s iCircular product, which is oriented towards mobile users and may be seen as experimental.

To lead the new company, Find n Save has recruited former Yahoo Consortium leader Chris Tippie, who tells BIA/Kelsey that the advantage of the broad consortium is that it provides a truly national footprint, which is vital for circular advertisers. “Our goal is to have a Find n Save presence in every market in the U.S. For us, it is imperative to provide consistent delivery, uniform measurement and ease of engagement across all of our affiliate markets,” he says.”National retailers have been asking for this for some time.”

Tippie also says that it is much better that a one stop shopping approach be offered, even though deals, grocery coupons, inventory and national product ads might seem like unrelated items that newspapers just happen to sell.

“It is absolutely critical,” says Tippie. “Local newspapers provide terrific service to local retailers, and they provide a variety of different products. These are revealed to local shoppers in a variety of mechanisms. This provides a single interface that is searchable and optimized.”

Tippie also emphasizes that local affiliates have a lot of leeway around such issues as sourcing local deals. “We don’t provide a daily deals product,” he notes. “We just make it better” by aggregating and optimizing them. Sacramento’s Find n Save, for instance, had been providing both Groupon deals and local newspaper deals.

One part of the shopping solution that will require more work to be fully integrated is a local retailer directory. Some newspapers are earning revenue from enhanced directory listings, including one developed by Travidia that will continue to be sold by Find n Save. These will likely to continue to be developed locally by each company.

Whether Find n Save is ultimately successful depends on a number of factors. The biggest is whether the national retailers will adopt the platform and switch their circular budgets to it. Many have been developing their own capabilities.

For McClatchy Digital head Chris Hendricks, Find n Save represents a new beginning for newspapers. “It is pushing what we want to do as an industry,” he told us. “We are working together to develop solutions that work for advertisers and consumers.” Hendricks envisions future iterations, for instance, in the tablet space.

New Era for Local Shopping Portals; Travidia Launches ‘FindnSave’

Shopping portals have moved beyond “federated search,” and now combine the best of daily deals, coupons, weekly ads and other promotional information in ways that are more efficient — and drive more shopping.

At the national level, Gannett’s ShopLocal.com has been moving in this direction for some time. At the local level, we’ve recently seen the launch of Local.com’s multi-pronged shopping portal. The daily deal and coupon aggregators such as The Deal Map, 8Coupons, Deal Radar and Yipit probably also qualify as shopping portals, too.

New to the game is FindnSave.com, an effort by Travidia, the digital media vendor that works with 700 newspapers. Two McClatchy sites are currently launched: The Sacramento Bee and The Kansas City Star. Next up are McClatchy newspaper sites in Charlotte, Fort Worth, Fresno and Tacoma.

Travidia Chief Marketing Officer James Green says the newspaper sites have seen an immediate and dramatic increase from their previous shopping areas, which had a lot of information but were not presenting shopping information as efficiently. “They caused consumers to go off in a million directions,” he notes. “Consumers just want the best deal, regardless of the source.”

With newspapers, however, one size doesn’t fit all, Green emphasizes. Some newspapers have different vendor deals locked in, while others want to emphasize different types of information. Both The Sac Bee and KC Star, for instance, feature Groupon deals, Milo.com inventory information and standard features such as a Twitter board of local shopping Tweets.

But The Sac Bee also opted to include online coupons, while the KC Star opted out of online coupons. Such customization isn’t always easy to pull off: most shopping related vendors don’t have an API that can make them easier to plug in their feed.

The result is that FindnSave has been developed as more of a customizeable platform, rather than a turnkey site. Its primary feature is the development of “search blocks” that are integrated on top of the database, and extract relevant information.

Is it better than the competition? Green believes that FindnSave has a competitive edge via the newspapers’ localized information, plus the deep integration of the platform. Eventually, it will integrate various types of shopper-related content as well, such as local shopping blogs, ratings and reviews.

Another asset cited by Green is FindnSave’s easy verticalization, which can be used to create entirely new online vertical properties. The Sac Bee , for instance, is using the product to create a dedicated grocery portal. The portal will feature a slightly different User Interface, as well as a combination of newspaper and syndicated content.

Ultimately, FindnSave has been “ten years in the making for us,” says Green. “It’s been a natural evolution. The bottom line is we are not trying to facilitate e-commerce; we are trying to facilitate in-store traffic.”