Of all the people we talk to in and around the newspaper industry these days, Nancy Lane, is usually the most charged up.
The President of Suburban Newspapers of America, Lane also runs Zip2Save, the for-profit site that aggregates retail circulars and local coupons. Since launching last October, the company has met some impressive milestones:
Daily partnerships: 300 out of 1200 U.S. dailies
Weekly partnerships: 800 U.S. weekly partners (out of about 14,000)
Coupons on the site: 2000
Monthly Unique Visitors: 120,000
Lanes says they are launching new sales partners at the rate of several per week. In March, site visitors printed 18,000 coupons alone from Smart Source grocery coupons, a new advertiser on the site.
So how's it going so far for Zip2Save's media partners?
Five months in, some of the bigger markets are selling up to $10,000 in revenues per month, smaller markets are generating revenues from $1000 to $5000 a month. That includes even small weeklies with 8000 circulation.
The media company keeps 70% of local revenues. 50% of national revenues also go back to the local partners which includes multiple partners per market. Zip2save staff sells the short list of big box retailers; major accounts include Lowes, JCPenney, Target, Kohl's, Bass Pro Shops, HH Gregg, News America and RedPlum.
"Best practice" cities - ie the ones making the most money - are Minneapolis, Canton/Minerva, Denver, Houston, Columbus and Chicago, which is also the number one referral source.
"It doesn't matter what the size of the market is, or whether it is daily or weekly, free or paid, It matters that the top management makes this a priority, and if the sales reps have the tools and are they excited to sell it," Lane says.
"We want to fill every geographic hole in the country with a media partner,"says Lane. They also want to use electronic solutions to tap into the grocery store market, lost to Advo a decade ago. Ironically, Advo has since been purchased by Vallassis, whose RedPlum is now an advertiser on the site.
The set up is unique; since Zip2Save is a standalone site, media partners sell coupons into a company they don't technically own, although they do link to the site from the home page. In return, they keep 70% of the revenues sold, and with no start up costs, this is a far less expensive solution than developing a coupon site from scratch and gives them access to at least some revenue from national brands.
The only direct competitor, Coupons.com, that partners to create a mix of local and national coupons, doesn't offer "deals", considered offers that are also available in store, or have a subchannel for electronic circulars, an important component for local papers, so may be hindered in part by their domain-name strategy.
The pool of 20 owners had originally funded SNA's ad network, which, in spite of bringing in a million dollars for community papers, was never profitable. Before the money ran out, Lane investigated a Canadian newspaper company, Metroland Media Group, whose circular site, Flyerland.ca had taken off. By including Metroland in the ownership and using their platform, the group was able to accomplish the nearly impossible, going to market in five months.
The owners have just committed another $5 million in funding to the company, some of which will be used to hire people "just to sign up newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and pure plays."
The first target is medium size chains of 10 to 30 dailies or 50 to 100 weeklies. A Hispanic version of Zip2Save will launch in June and a mobile application is on the way.
The Zip2Save site has four channels: Circulars, deals, coupons and travel discounts and is a standalone site. Zip2Save's provides ROP advertising and other marketing materials and partner Metroland Media uploads the ads ads.
"All the (local) staff has to do is sell it," Lane says.
Because the site is already populated with deals, the local deals and coupons can be sold "from day one" instead of in-filled with free ads, and 98% of the ads are paid.
Non-exclusivity is one of the most interesting components of the program. In some small markets former competitors are team selling the grocery stores. In this case the "who is your competition" question meant Advo, so odd partnerships abound.
In the Denver suburbs, the Colorado Community Newspapers, Aurora Publishing and Mile High Newspapers - three independent groups, sometimes join forces to sell major and regional business.
Zip2Save has also teamed up with the two largest direct-to-consumer coupon sites, Redplum and Smart Source, who pay for position, and have dramatically increased their downloads.
Zip2Save traffic seems low for a mature site, at 120,000 monthly uniques, but its easy to forget how little time the company has been in business. In addition, all the traffic to the site is commerce related, since "there is no other reason to come to this site."
Zip2Save also includes deals and circulars, and has the advantage that the company is owned by 20 publishers and run by an executive of the Suburban Newspaper Association, with 2000 members.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.
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