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Newspapers jump on the group-buying bandwagon

A Bloomingdale's newspaper advertisement shows large discounts January 8, 2009 in New York City.

Kai Ryssdal: You know those deal-a-day offers? Groupon's probably the most famous one. Google's getting into the game. In all, there are more than 300 companies doing it.

Well, plus one for newspapers, who see the group-buying market as a way to make up for their disappearing advertising dollars. From WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch reports the Boston Globe has launched its own service.


Curt Nickisch: It was the Boston Globe that famously turned down a chance to start monster.com, which went on to devour their classifieds revenue. Today, the Globe's chief advertising officer Lisa DeSisto is kicking herself about group-buying.

Lisa DeSisto: Well sure, I wish we would have thought of it earlier. But we still think we have an opportunity to be really competitive here.

DeSisto says unlike many newbie group-buying services, newspapers have long, cultivated relationships with local advertisers. And she says newspapers already have a built-in customer base: subscribers and website visitors.

DeSisto: So if you're reading a restaurant review, we want to give people the opportunity to get a deal at that restaurant while they're there reading the review.

The Boston Globe's not the first newspaper to try this marketing phenomenon. The San Diego Union-Tribune started one that's outselling Groupon and LivingSocial in its market.

Peter Krasilovsky is an analyst at the media research firm BIA/Kelsey. He says group-buyer sites are increasingly taking on newspapers. Just look Groupon's recent partnership with an events and concerts promoter. He says group-buying services want to become more than just an online coupon service.

Peter Krasilovsky: Well, newspapers have been positioning themselves as city guides. So yeah, they're going to have a head-to-head collison.

Krasilovsky says it's not too late for newspapers to join the fray: most group-buyers tend to be educated women -- just the tip of the iceberg of potential customers.

In Boston, I'm Curt Nickisch for Marketplace.

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