As a recent report documents, the left-for-dead newspaper industry is reinventing itself by developing new revenue streams that build on its local resources and, often, on digital media. Now, a major new effort -- the largest collective commercial effort by newspapers since the founding of the Associated Press -- is launching this week a new digital application and community based on reinventing the advertising circular. 

The name of the newspapers-backed endeavor is Wanderful Media, and the digital-age ad service is a complete relaunch of a previous service, formerly called “Find n Save” and now called “Find&Save.” The Silicon Valley-based independent company’s backers include Cox Media, E.W. Scripps, Gannett, Hearst, McClatchy and the Washington Post.

The relaunch utilizes a top-to-bottom redesign, taking what had been a straightforward posting of print circulars online in its previous incarnation and transforming it into a dynamic social service.

Alerts, Discovery

The basic idea, as it has been with the US$ 4 billion industry of sale-based circulars in printed newspapers, is still to drive traffic to local stores but with enhanced effectiveness because of interactive features available through a tablet, smartphone or computer. Capabilities now include the ability to search or discover local sales, create lists of sale items, send lists to friends through social networks or share them with the Find&Save community, and keep secret lists for, say, birthday present shopping.

Users can also set alerts about expiring offers, follow favorite retailers, or keep track of great shoppers who have a knack for assembling great lists of sales. Mobile versions of the Find&Save sites are now available, and native apps are expected within a few months.

Dave Thomsen, EVP of Product Design for Wanderful, told CMSWire.com that the intent is to take the printed circular and create “a discovery experience, so users can slice and dice” sales offers and leverage the findings of others.

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Building on Local

CEO Ben Smith said the expectation is that users will be able to go further in their use of circulars, with the slicing and dicing resulting in niche channels of users that can be oriented toward specific qualities or types of deals. Users can allow their lists to “become discoverable by others,” he pointed out, choosing to share them only with their own circle of friends or to make them public.

The revamped service has been tested in a few markets, such as the Dallas Morning News and the San Jose Mercury News, and is now being rolled out to 380 newspapers, where it will become the content behind those sites’ shopping tabs and will have an initial market of about 100 million unique users. Smith also noted that the company is “making a big bet” on geo-sensing in mobile devices, with location-based sales being available within the next 18 months.

As newspapers find their new identity, a key feature is an emphasis on local, and Find&Save is betting that their tools to make local shopping easier and better can give new life to the circular. “Without local retail,” Smith said, “there are no local newspapers, so they have to find a way to capture that audience.”