USA WEEKEND, the magazine that takes over when national newspaper USA Today breaks from its weekday schedule, has started a mobile shopper marketing program. Using Pelago’s Whrrl location and game app, the publication will build custom societies for marketers. Readers who join these societies can use the service, while shopping at major retailers, to view relevant content from USA WEEKEND and exclusive brand messages; share product recommendations with other members; and check into stores to earn rewards and win prizes.
It’s an interesting way for USA WEEKEND to offer extra value to advertisers. That’s important since marketers are less likely to buy newspaper ads these days. It’s also a good way to court tech-savvy readers who prefer reading online (thus never seeing print ads or print specials like coupons), especially if the reader uses his or her smart phone to access the magazine’s online version.
“Whrrl provides a unique way for USA WEEKEND to engage our readers with its combination of social and mobile capabilities,” USA WEEKEND President and Publisher Chuck Gabrielson said in a release. “What really separates this mobile marketing program from others is its ability to bridge the communication gap with readers between their in-home planning and in-store purchase decision making.”
Gannett Co. Inc., which owns both USA-named publications, long ago showed its digital branding savvy when it started implementing citizen journalists as part of its way of covering news–and engaging readers–earlier this decade. That was light-years before other newspaper companies understood the benefits of even allowing comments on website news stories.
Hopefully Gannett will remain savvy. (Full disclosure: I worked for a Gannett newspaper in 1993.) I’m a little worried, since less than a month ago a USA Today reporter wrote a glowing report about Whrrl and Pelago, now its business partner–which could cast doubt on the objectivity of the publications’ news stories, in turn making them less valuable to readers.
But I’m willing to believe the reporter acted independently of Gannett’s business and marketing departments. And the newspaper industry is so desperate, it probably cares more about whether the mobile shopper program succeeds.