Associated Press Debuts “iCircular” to Push Coupons to Mobile Users of Newspaper Apps

It was announced recently that the Associated Press (AP) has debuted a new service aimed at serving up coupons within mobile apps developed by participating newspapers around the country.

Dubbed “iCircular,” the new feature began appearing in mobile apps today as part of a pilot phase of a project announced nearly a year ago by the AP that aims to boost revenue for an industry that’s quickly being replaced by digital content.  iCircular is meant to be the digital equivalent of coupons and other promotions that are inserted into the print editions of weekend newspapers. Those ads are among the most popular parts of Sunday newspapers.

A study by the Newspaper Association of America found nearly three-fourths of readers check advertising inserts, mostly to find out about sales, which falls in line with America’s continued love affair with coupons.  Expanding on this trend and doing so in a collective fashion is a smart idea.  The initial group of 40 newspapers adding iCircular to their phone apps includes the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News and San Francisco Chronicle.  The phone apps of the newspapers that have agreed to use iCircular so far reach a combined audience of about 5 million people.

The AP says roughly 20 retailers have committed to running ads in iCircular so far, with the likes of Target Corp., Macy’s Inc., Kmart, Toys R Us and J.C. Penney Co topping the list.  As this is just an initial pilot to see how things go no fees are being collected by advertisers, but the AP said it plans to negotiate the fees it will collect if the concept ends up paying off for both newspapers and retailers.  Also, the AP wants to study user behavior before figuring out iCircular’s ad rates and possible service fees, said Mary Junck, the chair of the revenue committee on the AP’s board of directors.  Junck is also CEO of Lee Enterprises Inc., the publisher of the St. Louis Dispatch and other newspapers. If it’s successful, iCircular will likely be expanded to work on the iPad and other tablet computers, Junck said.