5 ways to launch a deals program

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An ever-growing number of newspapers and magazines have been diving into the daily deals space, which is ripe for media companies looking for new revenue streams. There are a handful of approaches to take for publishers that want to get started ― ranging from launching aggregated newsletters to full-blown deal hubs. 

The challenge is that publishers have to carve out a space in the cluttered deals market and decide which vendors to partner with, if they partner at all. Here are five different ways publishers can get started in the deals space.
 

Adding deals to advertising 

The simplest approach is to team up with an established company like Groupon, which will arrange the deals and provide a cut of the revenue. Deals can rev up regular display ads or be offered in conjunction with entertainment-oriented content. InStyle, for instance, paired Groupon deals with editorial content in its Ultimate Beauty Black Book. 
 
Digital coupons are an easy way to spice up regular banner ads. But publishers don't get a huge cut of the revenue when working with Groupon; it's unsurprising so many have veered off on their own. After all, publishers, particularly in the local space, already have advertising relationships they can leverage. 
 

Using a third-party solution

Publishers can also pair with one of the established solutions in order to create a white-label product. Boston.com, for example, launched Boston Deals in partnership with Group Commerce, one of the many white-label solutions available for publishers.
 
Third-party solutions are also emerging in the B2B space, with companies such as BizyDeal reaching out to publishers. (Presumably we'll see more innovation from publishers in the B2B arena as well.) 
 
The upside to using a third-party deals platform is the ability to have a customizable infrastructure in place. But, like any vendor, publishers have to make sure it has the attributes fitting their organization's needs. 
 

Creating an in-house platform 

A handful of publishers have gone all out in the deals space, launching their own platforms to go head-to-head with sites like Groupon. The New York Times launched TimesLimited, an exclusive newsletter from advertisers, last spring and The San Diego Union-Tribune has had a deals program since April 2010. Digiday reported in April that it's one of the biggest revenue programs across all San Diego media.  
 
The Union-Tribune is a sign that the deals space could be a worthwhile endeavor for publishers looking for new digital revenue. However, publishers with less scale might be better off building on top of a white-label solution.
 
TimesLimited
 

Aggregating deals 

The platform publishers use is not the only differentiator in the deals space. The over-saturation of deals sites in many localities has opened up a new opportunity for publishers: deal aggregation. It's a natural extension of what publishers do best — curating the best information for their readers. 
 
New York Magazine, for example, recently launched New York Deals, a newsletter that compiles the “best of the best” of deals from a select number of e-commerce sites. It makes sense for a lifestyle magazine in a huge market to sift through deals for its specific audience. Location-based apps could make deal aggregation even more useful.
 

Going mobile 

Mobile is already presenting opportunities for publishers to offer location-based deals. The San Jose Mercury News worked with Tackable to launch the TapIn Bay Area for iPad app, a mobile news platform that shows users relevant news and deals in their area. Users can even take a deal from the iPad app and send it to a tethered app on their phones to easily retrieve it on the go. 
 
The Mercury News is demonstrating how publishers can package deals and content to deliver users useful information and advertising at the right place and the right time ― which seems to be the right idea.
 
TapIn Bay Area for iPad

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