Friday, September 17, 2010

European developers look to find a new home for print advertising products by creating 'shopper' apps

Once a week some guy drives by my house and throws a rolled up newspaper out his window onto my driveway. If it is raining the paper sits there until it begins to decay and melts into a solid mass. On other days it gets picked up and immediately thrown into the recycling. On rare occasions it gets picked up and opened.
It is our local "shopper": an advertising driven newspaper that contains almost all advertising, sold locally ... to local merchants ... by a local company. Along with marriage mail, mailed circulars, and other print products, this was once the main competition to big metro newspapers. Now, they are the least of the newspaper industry's worries.

But what is the future of these advertising driven products? Many advertising products didn't survive the rise of the Internet: real estate tabloids and auto traders may still be around, but most consumers look at home using such sites as or Zillow. The question is 'will location-aware sites such as Facebook or Foursquare, or even Google maps, make the local shopper obsolete?

While doing a little research for a modest post about a couple of new media apps from Luxembourg, I contacted Bruno Pinto, the developer of several media apps already in iTunes about his new app

MengReklammen means my ads. Pinto said that in Luxembourg people will put a sign on their mailboxes saying "no ads" -- meaning junk mail not wanted. Of course, one person's junk mail is another person's business model.

Seeing an opportunity, in jumps Mr. Pinto with a new universal app that gives consumers the opportunity to collect all those advertising driven publications in one place, and those retailers an opportunity to reach consumers in a new way.
I couldn't think of a U.S. media company that was doing this, but Pinto pointed me towards a German app that was similar to his. MeinProspekt HD (even I could translate that one without Google) is the iPad version of previously released iPhone app that gathers together offers from such retailers as Aldi and Ikea.

This app, from London Project Adv. GmbH, includes a map to show locations, and their bookshelf is designed to look like Apple's iBooks app (very clever).

Most third party app developers appear interested in pursuing the larger media companies, whether they are newspaper or magazine publishers, or radio stations with news feeds. But the local advertising-based products need help even more. Pinto's iPad app is a great first step.

Ultimately, I would see many of these apps evolving towards a location-aware solution, combining general advertising with push notifications.

For the developers, this could be fertile new ground, as they can offer both a replica solution combined with other services such as Google maps.

Strangely, this again brings me full circle to the first experiences with web advertising. Back in the stone age of the Internet, a company like VerticalNet would offer its advertisers Store Fronts, essentially online circulars. This is essentially what these pioneers of mobile and tablet publishing are doing, as well.

For some of the legacy products such as Valassis, or newer web-based companies like ShopLocal, this could be a product add-on -- a way to extend their brands, while attempting to keep their local clients and retail chains out of the hands of Google and others.

As for that other app from Luxembourg? Well, there isn't much to see really.

LaVoix is an iPad-only app that readers can download for free. Readers can get access to the daily edition of La Voix du Luxembourg free-of-charge for the rest of the year as long as they register with the paper. The process is easy, even with limited French skills.

Obviously the paper sees themselves eventually charging for access to the paper. They might successfully get readers to pay if they heavily discount -- there is nothing interactive about the tablet edition of LaVoix, so ease of reading and archiving is the only real sales point.

I will admit, though, that I am more open to replica editions of print newspapers than I am of magazines, though only just a little bit. A hybrid model might be the eventual answer here. For one thing, it makes no sense to have to endure "jumps" in a tablet edition. Putting in a live link in the headline of a story should pull up a window with a text version, or some similar solution.