Yahoo Explores Deals Offering for Newspaper Partners

yahoonewspaperYahoo’s partnerships with newspaper publishers – including one of its biggest scores, Gannett – are chugging along. The company continues to consider new ways of working with its so-called consortium of local media partners. For instance, as Gannett begins testing Yahoo’s ad management system, Yahoo is exploring expansion of the relationships into the daily deals space.

“We continue to talk with the leaders of the consortium about lots of opportunities, and the deals space is certainly one,” said Lem Lloyd, VP of Yahoo’s Newspaper Consortium, during a talk with ClickZ News late last month. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you see something along those lines later this year.”

Yahoo already partners with daily deals providers like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Gilt City for its “Local Offers” channel.

“To the extent that opening up more traffic and distribution can enable [newpaper partners] to accelerate growth in the daily deals category, Yahoo is an attractive partner for them,” said Lloyd.

Gannett Digital owns properties in the local retail arena such as shopping circular provider ShopLocal and It told ClickZ in December it has tested its own social commerce programs pairing local advertisers with consumers seeking nearby deals.

But Yahoo’s newspaper partnerships are entrenched in display advertising. Yahoo gradually has been integrating partners like Gannett onto its APT ad management platform, the roll out of which has sputtered since its unveiling in 2008. For instance, while Gannett initially planned to begin testing APT late last year, the company only just began in the last few weeks, according to Jack Williams, president of Gannett Digital Ventures.

The hold up was due to a series of upgrades Yahoo made to the system – some that would have affected the integration with Gannett. The publisher decided to wait to begin training employees on APT until the upgrades were complete. “Otherwise …we would be duplicating the work,” said Williams.

Despite the hiccup, one Gannett paper site has been converted and another is in the works. In all, the firm will test “several” paper sites and one TV site in about four markets, Williams said. For now, Gannett is using the platform to manage the Yahoo inventory it sells to broaden the reach of its audiences for local advertisers.

Companies like Gannett use the platform to view available inventory by advertiser segment in their DMAs – for instance, luxury SUV buyers in Phoenix. From there, they can create ad packages for clients. Gannett is assessing various aspects of the platform, including inventory management, ease of use for ad input, and ad trafficking.

When Yahoo finally signed Gannett as a partner in July 2010, it was a significant win for the company. Yahoo had already aligned with around 40 newspaper publishers as part of its newspaper consortium, representing around 800 paper sites. Today, Yahoo counts its newspaper partner sites at closer to 900 (the Gannett deal brought in over 80 sites, adding new local markets for Yahoo), and has incorporated broadcast television sites from partners including Media General, Freedom Communications and Gannett. Although the Gannett deal is very similar to that of Yahoo’s other newspaper partners, technically Gannett is not a part of Yahoo’s Newspaper Consortium.

“Probably 80 to 90 percent of our markets are well ahead of the [projected] numbers,” said Williams.

During Gannett’s Q4 2010 earnings call last month, the company reported, “the partnership is working as planned,” and said 39 sites – just about half – are selling Yahoo inventory, and “several” others plan to complete the setup process by the end of March. In addition, Gannett said all of its seven targeted broadcasting markets have launched the Yahoo program, culminating recently with Arizona’s KPNX and its site.

That setup process involves training local Gannett sales staff on how to sell Yahoo inventory. “We train them on Yahoo behavioral targeting and Internet advertising, and trends that we’re seeing,” said Lloyd.

Though the broadcast sites Yahoo works with have lots of video content, the company is only serving display ads around that content at the moment, rather than in-stream advertising. For Gannett, that could change down the road, according to Williams. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t consider that if it’s feasible,” he said.

Also in the future, Gannett could consider using the APT platform to serve its own inventory. “That’s a longer term process,” said Lloyd, “That’s really more up to them.”

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