Wheelin’ and Dealin’: Daily Deal Dish From LivingSocial, AOL and Belo

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Group buying platform LivingSocial has taken another important step in differentiating itself as more than just another deal a day, building on its recent acquisition of social adventures company UrbanEscapes to unveil LivingSocial Espcapes. The new travel-focused offering segments getaways into three distinct categories: urban (in town), nearby and destination.

Escapes works much like LivingSocial’s standard daily deals, with substantial savings for buyers (usually 50 percent or more) and a tipping point that must be met for a deal to go live. E-mail subscribers receive a weekly alert, and because these are more ambitious purchases that require longer planning, LivingSocial is keeping deals active for seven days. Deals can be capped.

Thus far, Escapes seems to be off to a hot start. For example, a “Culinary Adventure in Virginia Wine Country” sold out — 435 at 55 percent savings — in just three days.

This is just the latest diversification for Washington, D.C.-based LivingSocial, which also now serves daily deals at a sub-metro level in certain market, creating better geotargeting for participating businesses and more locally relevant offers for potential buyers.

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Meanwhile, TV station group Belo has jumped in the deal-a-day game, working with white label provider Tippr to introduce a group discount site across its local TV properties — Yollar.com. Consumers can sign up for deals-and-discounts e-mail alerts through the Yollar destination site, Belo station sites or dedicated Yollar Facebook pages.

The site was already live in selected Belo markets, including its Dallas/Ft. Worth headquarters, but is now launching in four additional markets: Boise, Charlotte, Hampton/Norfolk (VA) and Portland.

This is just the latest initiative from the TV company to seek out new ways to connect with local advertisers. In several markets, most notably Seattle, it has also hatched beLOCAL Ad Network, part of belocalmedia.com, to aggregate local media (traditional and community bloggers/contributors) to create a more attractive scaled buy for mid-market clients and regional agencies.

Finally, AOL has taken its deals platform — WOW! — live in three cities: Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. Though AOL isn’t exactly new to the DOD game, it is banking on inherent advantages in brand awareness and distribution, while potentially piggybacking on its content assets (highly trafficked portal home page, a growing fleet of blogs that now includes TechCrunch, 500 community Patch sites) to limit upfront costs and reach previously untapped deal-a-day segments.

Its broad content portfolio and deep e-mail database also open the possibility of national deals, similar to the one Groupon and Gap partnered on in August. This would run against the grain of most deal a days, which are SMB-focused, bottom-up and usually DMA-specific.

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