Tag Archives: Washington Post

Living Social Adds $14 Million, Teams with Washington Post

On the heels of Groupon’s $135 Million round (and $1 billion valuation), Living Social has stepped up to the plate with a new $14 million C round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with U.S. Venture Partners, Grotech Ventures and Steve Case’s Revolution, LLC participating. The new money gives Living Social a total of $39 million to match its Daily Deal against Groupon, and 150 + other deal-a-day entities that have emerged in their wake.

The new money will be used to rapidly expand Living Social’s reach. While it doesn’t come close to the full Groupon investment, it may actually equal Groupon’s budgeted spending, since a lot of that money has been designated to pay back investors and founders.

Living Social is currently in 14 markets and adding four more: Portland, Orange County, Charlotte and Philadelphia. Dozens of markets are expected to be launched by the end of the year. This count is compared to 50 markets served by Groupon, which says it will be in 100 markets by year-end.

Living Social CEO and co-founder Tim O’ Shaughnessy, a former AOL executive, tells us that the company has realized that The Daily Deal is “an opportunity that needs to be fed.” While the DC-based company’s origins are in social Facebook apps such as Virtual Bookshelf, the Daily Deal is now getting ”the majority” of the company’s attention.

O’Shaughnessy also says that while the guts of the daily deal offers may be quite similar from company-to-company, he believes that Living Social is differentiated in several important ways: one, it puts feet on the street in each of its markets, instead of relying on telemarketing. There is at least one salesperson in each market, he says.

Another differentiator is that the company is beginning to launch in large suburban markets, such as the San Fernando Valley outside of Los Angeles, and Escondido outside of San Diego. O’Shaughnessy believes the suburbs have their own appeal to consumers. Some users may choose to get a suburban offer for routine bids, and a metro offer for weekend fun, he suggests. That’s one way to boost the amount of inventory, he says.

“We’re looking at getting more hyperlocal. We are getting a good volume for most of the merchants we’re working with in smaller (population) centers.”

A third differentiator is Living Social’s viral effort, where consumers receive their coupon for free if they get three friends to sign on from a provided custom link. The”Sell 3, Get 1″ offer has been available from the get-go, says O’Shaughnessy, with certain categories outperforming others on a regular basis.

While Living Social is launching solo in most of its markets, it also has attracted local media partners, such as The San Francisco Weekly and The Washington Post. The Post deal was made two months ago with Living Social, which is headquartered in DC. It is based on a revenue share. It doesn’t utilize Post sales teams, but will eventually offer deep integration of the Daily Deal into the paper’s local content, including its metro pages, its sports pages and going out guide.

Allbrittron Combines Two DC-Area TV Station Sites into Local Portal

Allbritton Communications will merge its two Washington D.C. area TV station sites—WJLA.com and News8.net –and build a new, 50 person local DC site behind former Washingtonpost.com editor Jim Brady, who developed the concept. The site will be run adjacent to Politico, Allbritton’s successful, all politics vertical.

In an interview with PaidContent.org, Brady said he hopes to replicate Politico’s “Web first” culture. He also says there is an acknowledgement that you can’t build a successful local operation on a shoestring budget. The new site will have a full slate of reporters, editors and videographers.

“The concept is, to win big, you have to bet big,” he told PaidContent. “To build a business, you have to build an audience. And to build an audience, you have to have enough interesting content features. You can’t take 10 people and create a local site as a business.”

Brady also notes that the site will have an advantage over others by building on top of the broadcast station websites and their audiences. “They already have traffic and they already have revenue. And this project has two TV stations that can do a fair amount of promotion for a new website, on top of existing, functioning newsrooms. But “there’s no need for three local websites owned by the same company.”

Allbritton’s new entity will not only compete against Washingtonpost.com, but also against Bonneville’s WTOP, which not only has an award-winning all news website, but also runs WFED, a vertical online site and on-air station that is specifically targeted at federal workers and procurement.

HOAs as Hyperlocal Publishers?

Home Owners Associations would seem like natural publishers of hyperlocal news and information – especially where “many residents’ sense of community rarely extends beyond their own subdivisions, neighborhood schools and the crime and traffic problems closest to their homes,” as The Washington Post noted last week in an article on the failure of country-wide hyperlocal projects (including its own).

The Post reports, for instance, that many residents of the mega- “Broadlands” HOA are “hooked” on it, as well an on an independent site called the Brambletonian. The latter says it receives 7,000 monthly visitors. Both offer shopping and dining directories, resident forums, and community calendars for the swim team, etc

Despite their potential, our experience with home owners associations as publishers has been challenging and we haven’t been able to consider them as possible partners for local publishers. Either they self-publish, with primitive results, or they rely on a handful of HOA-specific vendors who charge on a per-resident basis. These are often managed outside of the community by companies that aren’t media-savvy and don’t sell much, if any, advertising — in part, because the majority of HOAs are too fragmented. They also don’t receive regular input from their members, and don’t have real editorial resources.

There are probably some good HOA sites, however. Companies such as eneighbors.com have worked to create a third party involvement with associations. Its sponsored ads on Google read: “I switched because no one visited our HOA website.”

Hyperlocal Roundup: WaPo Pulls Out, AOL’s Patch Adds 2 Towns

Hyperlocal, everyone’s favorite unproven concept, has been back in the news this week. It started a couple of weeks ago. BackFence Founder Mark Potts’ announced that he has formed a high profile team and built ad technology to drive network and local revenues for up to “2000 hyperlocal sites” – an interesting and large number. Potts said most of them are “suburban.”

This week, MSNBC.com announced that it was buying EveryBlock, a block-by-block data gathering service. Then came an announcement from The Washington Post today that it was shutting down its Loudon Extra edition, which was launched with hyperlocal impresario Rob Curley, but never really found its grounding.

Today, AOL’s new hyperlocal acquisition, Patch.com, announced that it is expanding in the New York Tri-State Area, adding two new communities to its four existing sites– Summit, NJ and Darien, CT. Two more sites are planned.

The company has also hired a “regional publisher”—Sol Colontonio, who had previously been Gannett’s director of Digital Ad Sales. AOL purchased Patch, a Tim Armstrong project, in June for “under $10 million.”

As with other Patch sites, the new sites have a self-serve ad system, complemented by professional sales. They also have a local editor that is specifically assigned to the community. They will manage a team of contributors that will provide everything from reports on high school sports and city government to coverage of events and interviews with members of the community.

Patch also announced two community initiatives. The first is a site that helps local charities and willing volunteers find each other. The second is “Give 5,” which dedicates five percent of Patch’s ad inventory as free advertising space for local charitable organizations. At the same time, Patch’s staff annually donates “five full paid days of its own time” to volunteer in Patch community (does that mean that Patch is paying for the time?)

D7:The WaPo’s and HuffPo’s Different Takes on Local News

Two very different takes on local news were in evidence at the WSJ’s D7 conference in Carlsbad,CA today, as Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post and Katharine Weymouth of The Washington Post were interviewed by former Post reporter Kara Swisher about their respective directions.

Since the November election, Huffington noted that the Huffington Post has gone deep into vertical coverage, and now only gets 50 percent of its usage from political news. One of those vertical areas, of course, is the new local website in Chicago, which will be joined next week by a New York City site.

The local sites are run with a small skeleton crew and rely on local blogs and media outlets for much of their coverage. Huffington hopes to firm up some formal partnerships with the sites in the future, specifically citing the non-profit Voice of San Diego as the kind of site that a HuffPo partnership could bring revenues and traffic to.

She also expects to ramp up more unique coverage. There were vague indications that a good portion of the $25 million she has raised from venture capital will be used to expand the local sites and for investigative journalism.

Weymouth, who is the niece of Donald Graham and became publisher last year, said she is working to “reorient The Washington Post for the Internet Age” by expanding online video and other features.

She also noted that the paper’s readership has been greatly extended by the Web, with ten million unique visitors a month. The paper’s daily circulation is less than a million. But ninety percent of the Web traffic is from out of town.

CV’s HomeGain Signs with The Washington Post (too)

Yesterday, Trulia announced it was replacing Classified Ventures’ Homefinder.com as the real estate search provider on WashingtonPost.com. Today, the paper seems to have reaffirmed its ties to CV via a new deal with CV’s HomeGain.

The deal with HomeGain provides paid leads to real estate agents, and on paper, complements the deal with Trulia, which is officially limited to real estate search (but could actually go in many directions, given Trulia’s wide capabilities).

HomeGain, which was started by TurnHere’s Brad Inman and sold to CV in 2005, certainly has a different model than Trulia (and HomeFinder and Zillow). While those are ad-supported services that aggregate listings from broker feeds and Web crawling, HomeGain sells leads to agents. Consumers that are looking for homes are provided with information to compare several agents.

If chosen, the agents, who pay between 55 cents and $2.00 per use, provide listings from their Multiple Listing Services and Internet Data Exchange subscriptions. These are theoretically more up to date and thorough than broker and crawled listings. But obviously, they don’t provide immediate gratification.

HomeGain GM Louis Cammarosano told us that the new deal with The Post represents a new relationship for the paper, which, like other Classified Venture owners, had previously syndicated HomeGain’s “valuation tool,” which is a box on the real estate section which homeowners can use to lookup property values – and access other parts of HomeGain from there.

Cammarosano doesn’t anticipate any formal dealings with Trulia, which is handling real estate search on the site. “They are different things,” he noted, adding that business for HomeGain is probably healthier than other real estate services since it is supported by leads, rather than ads, which are way down. Agents are still trying to sell houses, he observed.

In addition to leads, HomeGain has done well selling search-optimized Web pages, which is available for agents in 2,000 different zip-codes. “Average” fees run from $400 to $500, but he cautioned that prices vary, given the wide scope of HomeGain’s customers, who include both full service agents and brokerages, and limited service firms such as ZipRealty. The company has about 5,000 subscribers in all for its various programs.

Ballmer on Future of Print

In a new Washington Post.com video, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talks on a wide variety of topics, including the future of print. “In the next ten years, the world of media companies will be turned upside down,” he says. “There will be no newspapers or magazines delivered in paper form. Everything will be delivered in electronic form.”