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The Associated Press announced over the weekend that it plans “to test a mobile version of the preprint circulars that newspapers insert in their weekend sections.

“The mobile advertising solution, called iCircular, differs from other online coupon and shopping solutions in that it focuses on driving customers into their local retail stores and providing them tools to manage their shopping lists. A rich media ad module, newspapers can incorporate iCircular into their mobile websites or apps.”

According to the announcement, “Circulars that are inserted into newspapers continue to be highly effective marketing vehicles for retailers, reaching about 80 million customers a week. But retailers are also seeking ways to reach the 28.4 million readers who already access news on a mobile device – a number that is growing rapidly.

“iCircular would be an extension of the preprint circulars now inserted into newspapers, only on smartphones. It would allow retailers to target by Zip Code the customers they want to reach. Retailers can highlight their offerings by product and product category and consumers could view the offerings in a variety of ways. In addition, customers could search for particular products, create shopping lists and share deals with friends.

“Over the next four months, AP will build out the product for market testing, with a pilot group of publishers and retailers.”
KC's View:
The opportunity here to target specific consumers and to provide meaningful coupons is enormous. Those preprint circulars may go into the newspapers of 80 million people, but it is my impression they are seen by a lot more garbage cans than actual human eyes. The stuff that I get on my computer, iPad or iPhone is a lot more impactful, because it tends to be related to my actual behavior.

But if they’re only going to replicate the preprint circular experience - without any meaningful targeting - then they’re not taking advantage of the technology. It’ll be like using a loyalty card to simple distribute electronic coupons - it seems like an advance, but really only repeats the scattershot mistakes of the past.