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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 consortium and the Zillow real estate consortium. They include Gannett, MediaNews Group, McClatchy, Advance, Hearst, Cox, A.H. Belo and The Washington Post. More than 200 newspaper titles are involved.

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 consortium is purchasing Travidia as part of the deal.

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

Moreover, the way 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 address 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 toward 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 told BIA/Kelsey 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 said. “National retailers have been asking for this for some time.”

Tippie also said 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,” said 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 emphasized that local affiliates have a lot of leeway around such issues as sourcing local deals. “We don’t provide a daily deals product,” he noted. “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 revenues 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.

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