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DataSphere: ‘Online Coupons Prove Value to SMBs’

By: 30 November 2012

Local media companies have increasingly zeroed in on smaller SMBs for growth. In many cases, however, they don’t have the resources to go after them. Enter DataSphere, which handles telemarketing, content and search optimization for its growing list of media company partners, while harnessing the media company’s local brand in each market.

The company was launched six years ago by former Amazon execs, and primarily works with TV station groups in 103 DMAs. The station groups include Gannett, Meredith, Cowles, Raycom, Fisher, Local TV, Morgan Murphy Media — and as of this month, Belo and Sinclair. Earier this year, DataSphere also launched services for Gannett’s Arizona Republic – its first newspaper. Adding Belo and Sinclair have provided a significant boost to the size of its network to 600 million page views a month.

DataSphere works with its partners on either a revenue share basis, or it buys space to place its inventory. Either way, the media partners don’t pay upfront and appreciate pure profit.

The 500 employee company, with offices in Seattle and Arizona, currently has over 20,000 SMB accounts through its partners. Each account is worth roughly $200 each on average, although the value of each account varies widely. Typical accounts come from such categories as restaurants, insurance, financial services, veterinarian hospitals, dentists and tree trimmers.

While the focus on SMBs has remained the same for the last 4 years, the offering has significantly changed. DataSphere’s initial efforts were centered largely on LocalNet, a platform for hyperlocal news content effort driving traffic to local blogs and SMB landing pages. LocalNet enabled DataSphere’s TV station partners to provide a more neighborhood-centric perspective.

Over time, the company has continued to provide a range of hyperlocal traffic drivers, including local event calendars and SMB landing pages. But it has expanded its anchor offerings to focus on coupons, which incorporate more tangible direct response components. Coupons in particular, clearly demonstrate value to SMBs, according to SVP Gary Cowan. “Unlike a news story, the beauty of coupons is that the content is the ad,” says Cowan.

Cowan notes that coupons are easily exposed beyond local media sites to a wide network of national coupon sites that localize, which includes such giants as coupons.com. The coupons also can be shown on multiple partners in a single market. In all, the DataSphere Coupon Network now attracts 40 million unique users a month.

The company’s coupon business also differs from traditional coupon leaders, such as Cox Target Media’s ValPak. “we offer a lower priced solution, which can be a better fit for many businesses,” says Cowan.

DataSphere’s marketing outreach, meanwhile, remains focused on telemarketing. Its 300-strong telemarketing sales force is based in Seattle and its growing Arizona office, with the majority of the growth planned for Phoenix. But the company is also doing more with self-serve advertising. The company learned from its roots in real estate leads that “self-serve develops warm leads,” says Cowan. “It leads to upsells for more extensive efforts.”

DataSphere SVP Gary Cowan appears on the Coupons section of the Deals Superforum at ILM West, along with ValPak President Michael Vivio and Savings.com CEO Loren Bendele.


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