Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Morning Brief: WhaleShark Media changes its name officially to RetailMeNot, makes another acquisition; three UK papers come out for new press regulatory regime

Many media people have never heard of Whale Shark Media, the company behind the app RetailMeNot Coupons. But it is companies like this one that is eating away at newspaper and magazine advertising, bringing coupon directly to consumers.

The Austin-based company today changed its name officially – no more WhaleShark Media, now it is RetailMeNot, a company that was acquired in 2010 (frankly, both names are terrible, but whatever). The company also announced that it had acquired its fourth online coupon company in Europe, the site Actiepangina.nl.

If this sounds like a roll-up strategy you might be right. The company is backed by Adam Street Partners, Austin Ventures, Google Ventures, JP Morgan and others. Reuters speculates that the company will want to go public this year, though one glance at the investors involved makes you wonder if a sale could be possible, as well.

More and more ad dollars are being spent in mobile, but more importantly, more and more ad dollars are being spent in direct customer acquisition rather than through traditional media. In the case of RetailMeNot, customers can be driving by a retailer and will be sent a notification with an offer. There is no need to cut out a coupon or to plan ahead, the app does the work.

Three U.K. editors, Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian, Lionel Barber of the Financial Times and Chris Blackhurst of The Independent, today wrote editorials in support of a new press regulation system. The timing of the editorials coincide with a meeting to take place today to discuss recommendations found in the Leveson report, which was the result of hearings held following an investigation into the News of the World hacking scandal – with Rupert and James Murdock among the witnesses.

"How best to supervise the media, while retaining its independence, is no small challenge," The Independent wrote. "But the stalemate that has greeted the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry cannot continue, even so."

"A clause underpinning a royal charter to establish a recognition panel for a press regulator does not, to our minds, amount to statutory control of the press," The Guardian editorial states. "We do not see it as a threat to press freedom. If we're to have a backdoor constitutional fudge over press regulation, it's better that it could be amended only in the open with the agreement of an overwhelming majority of parliament. A royal prerogative that can be unpicked by ministers in private does not feel like a solid bastion of free expression."

"It is hard to make the argument that ministerial discretion should trump parliamentary approval when it comes to amending a Royal Charter," the Financial Times editorial states. "It is even harder now that politicians of all stripes are lining up behind statutory underpinning of the body overseeing a new regulatory regime. Some will argue that standing on the principle of no statutory involvement whatsoever is nobler than offering a compromise which can later be exploited. The FT, on balance, disagrees and has joined The Guardian and The Independent to propose a better way forward."

The three editorials contrast with other media voices who have been calling for only voluntary guidelines, rather than a legislative approach.