Gannett Incubates Groupon Style Offering

Gannett is testing its own answer to Groupon. The company is one of a handful of traditional media players to successfully harness digital technology through internal development and acquisitions, taking brands like USA Today into the 21st century. It now hopes to extend that track record to the hot social commerce category.

Over the past year, Gannett has tested social commerce programs that pair its local advertiser partners with consumers seeking nearby deals.

“One of the advantages that we have… is we have a lot of local incubators across the country where we can test to see what works,” said Josh Resnik, GM of the Gannett Digital Network, in reference to the company’s network of local newspaper, television and niche content sites.

“The legacies of daily newspapers is they were centers of commerce and they were one, if not the original, coupon medium,” said news industry analyst Ken Doctor. However, he concluded, until now paper publishers have failed to be the shopping centers of people’s lives online.

Gannett’s possible social shopping offering could be a white label product using a third-party platform, or a separately branded product. It might be available as a single offering or as many different ones tailored for different properties or locations, suggested Resnik. Sometime next year the company anticipates unveiling its approach to social commerce.

“In the early part of next year, we’ll have more to say,” said Resnik, who was reluctant to share much more detail during a call with ClickZ News.

The social commerce sector has heated up immensely in the past year, as consumers have signed up to receive daily deals and group-buying offers targeted to their neighborhoods, towns, and cities. The hype rose to a crescendo when word spread in late November of an impending Groupon acquisition by Google. The deal never came to be.

Gannett already has properties in the local retail arena, through ownership of shopping circular provider ShopLocal and, a site where consumers can search for coupons from local businesses. Gannett also has digital and social connections with mothers, the primary shopper in most households. The firm runs MomsLikeMe sites across the country and also attracts mothers of teenage athletes through

When it comes to newspaper publishers developing their own social commerce offerings or partnering to provide them, said Doctor, “It seems to me that they have the opportunity to succeed but it’s going to be hard for them to have the phenomenal success that Groupon has had.” Still, he suggested, some small local businesses that shy away from Groupon-type models, which often require a loss leader investment, could form a market for others to step in. “It might create, in the shadow of Groupon, a new business,” he said.

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