Gannett Unveils ‘PaperBoy’ Online Circular

Retailers are sick of being lost amidst the clutter of newspaper print circulars. They haven’t seen much usage from their online circulars, either. But they’ll look on with interest come January, when Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune begin testing an online circular that allows a banner ad to be “moused over” to provide advertiser specials, store locations and other information.

At least 217 of the 245 newspapers in the Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune consortium have given a green light to the test, as wwll as Yahoo. Additional joiners from Knight Ridder’s Real Cities network are likely.

The mouse-over circular technology, branded as”PaperBoy,” is being provided by PointRoll, which was purchased by Gannett earlier this year for the heady sum of $100 million. Conceptually, PaperBoy might be seen as the other side of iPix AdMission’s SpotLight ads, which enable users to open searchable libraries of real estate or auto photos when banners are moused over.

For the tests, realtime data for PaperBoy will come from 10 of the Top 50 national retailers, although retailer names aren’t being disclosed. The retailers have been pitched for just a month, and more are likely to sign on, according to Bob Tedeschi’s Ecommerce column in The New York Times. PaperBoy’s store data is likely to be supplemented by ShopLocal, which is jointly owned by Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune, and has over 300 retailers participating.

It isn’t clear, however, whether the relationship with ShopLocal is truly complementary or whether ShopLocal merely becomes a subordinate piece of the puzzle. It is a definite hurdle to overcome, given that Gannett owns 100 percent of PointRoll and might prefer a “winner takes all” approach. Indeed, Gannett has been seen as having its own retail strategy, in part because its papers are mostly in smaller markets. Knight Ridder and Tribune generally have mid-sized and large-sized titles.

But a ShopLocal official told The Local Onliner that he doesn’t expect ShopLocal to assume a subordinate role. “We’re a one-stop shop, with direct client relationships,” he noted. PointRoll, meanwhile, works closely on the ad agency side, and has the relationship with Yahoo. “We see (PointRoll) as extending our localized data,” he said.

Indeed, it is a common trend in retailing right now to embrace multiple advertising channels, he noted. “Retails are acting on their own behalf,” with their own websites and search strategies, and they also advertise in circulars.

Whether ShopLocal becomes subordinate or not, it does not seem to be going away anytime soon. In fact, it recently signed a deal with Planet Discover that will enable local merchants to self-provision ads beginning early next year. This is expected to open new avenues for the company at the local level. To date, ShopLocal has been focused almost entirely on serving national retailers and brands. The site will also unveil new search functionality and e-commerce options.