What do you see as one of the basic inefficiencies of traditional newspaper advertising?
My parents get the same newspaper that I do, even though I live about thirty miles away from them. Their front page looks the same as my front page even though our geographic interests are different. I live in this little community called Willow Glen and they live in Palo Alto. And they are interested in politics and housing in Palo Alto, and I don’t care that much about that. I care about dog parks here in Willow Glen and I care about a new restaurant downtown. And the newspaper has to serve both my parents and me, and plus everyone else who lives even further away from us. So what you find on the front page is a fairly generic mix of what the editors think the majority of people in the Bay Area want to read today.
But for me to find what’s near me is actually pretty difficult. Say my favorite restaurant has paid a lot of money to put this coupon in the newspaper, but I can’t find it because I didn’t look for it. My neighbors are having a garage sale and they paid thirty or forty bucks to get a garage sale listing, but I didn’t see it because it just wasn’t very well indexed.
So this product flips that equation around. All you do is open up the app and we’re going to send you everything: your local articles, local sports scores, as well as your local deals, local ads, and in the future, local classifieds. Really everything that we have, we assign a location to, and we can actually drive a lot more engagement with that. Businesses pay a lot of money to get their ads and their coupons into the newspaper. They’re really looking to make sure their ads are well displayed to the right customer. So by organizing those ads and coupons on a map, we think it can drive a lot more conversion; a lot more customers coming in through the door and asking for those deals. There’s a lot of business owners that took a leap of faith on this because we don’t have any users yet.
For the Gigs feature, what struck me about that was it seemed almost like a reporting tool. Is that what it’s meant to be, or is it just for anyone to place requests on the map?
Gigs is essentially the original Tackable product. We left it open intentionally because we want to see how people use it. It could be that you drag that little pin over and you drop it down on the map and you write about something what you saw there. We have early beta users, about sixty, so the product is not fully out yet. But we’re keeping it kind of nebulous. What we’re finding is people are using it in ways that we didn’t imagine, so we’re leaving it open intentionally to see how the public uses that feature and plays around with it.
What do you see as the potential problems for this app?
I’m a journalism purist, so I think that one of the best things about the newspaper is that you have an editor who decides that a story is very big and it’s something that you’re not thinking about. You may not have seen that on TV or Facebook, but this is important, so I’m going to put that on your front page. But with this product, because all news is location-based, that serious story is not coming to you necessarily, at least for version one of this product. What we’re hoping to do is try and figure out how we can bring the editor back into this process. That’s a harder problem, but we’re hopeful that we can do that.
The nice thing about a newspaper is it gives you a broad view of what is happening in your region, your state, the nation, and the world. This product does not have that because it is focused on hyperlocal. At some point I would like to bring that back but I would say that’s the weakest part of this app.
It comes to that balance of how technology can help inform you in a substantial way and not just a consumer-based way. How could this sort of technology change the way news organizations produce the news?