Through Wanderful's Find&Save, local newspapers try to tap into mobile retail game

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Wanderful Media today launched its redesigned Find&Save service, which is a site for newspapers to connect shoppers with local retailers, both big and small. Wanderful is funded by a group of the nation's largest newspaper companies, and the effort represents another attempt by newspapers to remain relevant in the digital--and mobile--age.

"The goal is to reimagine what a circular should look like on an iPhone," explained Ben Smith, CEO of Wanderful Media, in an interview with FierceMobileContent.

Wanderful's basic goal is to create a digital version of the newspaper circular--the collection of glossy advertisements from local retailers that traditionally sits inside a newspaper. Smith explained that Wanderful arose from discussions between newspaper executives and their local retailer advertisers, which wanted their advertisements available to an increasingly digital-only population. Wanderful was founded late last year with around $22 million from the likes of Advance Digital, A. H. Belo Corporation, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., Cox Media Group, The E. W. Scripps Company, Gannett Co., Inc., GateHouse Media, Inc., Hearst Corporation, Lee Enterprises, MediaNews Group, The McClatchy Company and The Washington Post Co.

Today, the company is launching the first version of its redesigned digital circular, dubbed Find&Save. It's essentially a website (available on desktop computers, tablets and smartphones) that lists coupons and sales from local retailers. Smith said Find&Save will be available to around 100 million people via local newspapers' websites.

Find&Save's model allows local retailers--both national chains like Target and local mom-and-pop establishments--to list their sales. A simple listing is free to a retailer, but they must pay to have their sale promoted on the site. Smith said Find&Save will soon list products from "hundreds" of major retailers like Macy's and Target, and the site later plans to add products from smaller, local retailers (he said the company will launch a smartphone app that will allow retailers to take pictures of their sale items and post them to the Find&Save service).

"Our high level goal is to create an immersive and local shopping experience," said Dave Thomsen, Wanderful's executive vice president of product and design.

On the mobile side of things, Thomsen said Wanderful is initially launching with just a mobile website. He said the company plans to offer a native iOS app sometime this summer. As for Android, Thomsen said it is on the company's radar, but he declined to say when Wanderful would launch an Android app. The apps will be able to provide alerts for local sales.

Although the desktop version of the company's service includes coupons, Thomsen said the smartphone version of the site--and the upcoming iOS app--will only provide listings of local sales. "That's not to say that we won't get into that [mobile coupons] in the future," Thomsen said.

Wanderful is jumping into a crowded and hotly contested market. A range of check-in and recommendation apps like foursquare and Yelp are eyeing this area, while heavyweights like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) continue to push into the market for local advertisements through services like Google Maps and Google Wallet. Further, wireless carriers are even getting into the game with the Isis-branded mobile payment service.

Moreover, newspapers continue to report declining subscriber numbers and have so far been unable to reverse that trend with sales of their digital products.

Nonetheless, Wanderful's newspaper partners sounded a hopeful note: "Wanderful Media is providing a single and proven platform to generate new revenues from retail digital advertising," said Leon Levitt, VP of strategy at Cox Media Group and member of Wanderful's board. "For its 400+ media affiliates, Find&Save is helping to strengthen newspaper brands with local shoppers."

For more:
- see this release

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