Newspapers Try a Richer Online Circular

Gannett subsidiary PointRoll has rolled out an “online circular” ad unit for national retailers and other advertisers who want to target local markets with specific offers.

The new expandable ad, called PaperBoy in the tradition of PointRoll’s other “Boy”-named formats, will distribute geo-targeted promotions to visitors to local news and portal sites. Sale and promotional content for the ads will come through a deal with ShopLocal.

Gannett, Knight Ridder and the Tribune Company are now selling PaperBoy placements on their approximately 200 local news sites, which reach about 80 of Nielsen’s designated market areas. and Yahoo will also offer it, targeting the offers based on user registration data.

The format will appear live in the next two weeks. PointRoll is calling the ads online circulars because “from a retailer perspective it’s something they can relate to,” according to Andy Ellenthal, the company’s EVP of sales. “If you look at the ways circulars are bought and leveraged, it’s to drive foot traffic that particular week. It’s less of a brand exercise.”

And national retailers spend vast sums on local print advertising, so there’s value to PointRoll and newspaper publishers in associating their online formats with those colorful little inserts.

“What’s always surprising to me is the size of these print budgets,” said Ellenthal. “It’s $200 to $500 million at the major retailers.”

PaperBoy ads incorporate dynamic information on product pricing and store locations, and include a “print coupon” option. People navigate the ad by rolling over and clicking on menus, or by typing keywords and zip codes into a text field.

PaperBoy sales will certainly be helped by the ShopLocal tie-in. Advertisers like Target and K-Mart, who already use ShopLocal, can roll those offers into PaperBoy ads without additional effort.

The next step for PointRoll is to generate awareness for the unit among national advertisers and agencies. In its announcement about the product, the company included a statement from Tribal DDB Chicago VP Paul Gunning: “We see an immediate fit for the retail, automotive, financial and real estate industries, where advertisers need to communicate fast-changing, market-specific information.”

Gannett bought PointRoll earlier this year for approximately $100 million.

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