As year-end financial information about the newspaper industry starts to trickle in, the first days of 2013 provide a bag of mixed results.
On the positive side, a blogger from the Poynter Institute reports that six of eight publicly traded newspaper companies showed gains for 2012, including McClatchy, which owns the Packet and Gazette and saw its valuation increase by more than a third, according to Rick Edmonds.
The past year saw several newspaper companies, including McClatchy, move toward a pay-for-use model for their online products, part of a larger effort to diversify their revenue sources. That effort includes versions of daily-deal sites that bring concepts introduced by Groupon and others to smaller, local advertisers. The problem with these deal sites is that newspapers might have gotten in on the action too late, as Groupon and similar sites are starting to show their cracks, according to Susan Johnston, a blogger at The News Hook.
(T)he heyday appears to have passed. The two biggest daily deals companies, Groupon and LivingSocial, are experiencing rapidly declining financial prospects and smaller deal sites have been acquired or disappeared.
Newspapers copied the tech companies, figuring their local sales forces and strong advertiser relationships with merchants would give them an advantage. Today the Boston Globe offers BostonDeals, the San Francisco Chronicle has SFGate Daily Deals, and the LA Times has LA Deals. The Washington Post initially offered restaurant deals through a site called The Capitol Dish, then relaunched a more general deal site called The Capitol Deal last year. Several third-party companies including NimbleCommerce, ShoutBack Concepts and Second Street offer to handle the back-end—processing coupons and payments—for media companies offering daily deals.
Johnston notes that many companies refused to discuss how their deals programs are performing; those that claimed success often found a way to tweak programs to their advantage.
(Full disclosure:The Packet and Gazette offer their own daily deal program, Dealsaver.com.)