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Thrillist Promotes New Model for Media Companies, and It Involves Deals

Thrillist enters deals market and potentially poses threat to Groupon

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How would you define a media company? It’s difficult in this day and age, isn’t it? With new media on the scene, this process is even more of a challenge.

Ben Lerer, who is the co-founder of lifestyle website Thrillist, explained to us that a traditional media company creates content and sells brand advertising against that content. Although the company has evolved from its traditional roots, he still believes his company is a media company since it has the assets from the traditional side, a trusted brand, and an opportunity to sell advertising. Thrillist, however, is taking this model a bit further with the recent introduction of Rewards, a platform that is similar to the popular daily deals offered by companies like Groupon. So wait, does that mean that Groupon is a media company?

Do you consider companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial media companies or advertising companies? Let us know.

According to Lerer, Groupon and LivingSocial are media companies in this new media era. He goes on to say that more traditional media companies will evolve toward similar models going forward, just as Thrillist has done. For his site, in particular, he said that moving in this direction was a “natural transition.”

In a nutshell, Rewards from Thrillist are “localized experiences and offers curated specifically to our audience,” which is young professional men. For example, a recent Reward was called “Strip & Strip” and included both a lap dance and steak. Other rewards have included drag racing adventures, all-you-can-eat beef jerky outings, and more.

“It’s less about the fact that you’re getting a great deal, and more about the fact that we’re packing up or packaging an offer in a way that makes it feel a lot more like content than a sale,” he said. “We’re making sure that we’re creating a really great experience where the user feels not just a loyalty toward the thrills/Rewards, but also toward the establishment.”

One of the most interesting ideas behind Thrillist’s model is that its Rewards, a.k.a. deals, are targeted to a specific group of people. While the Groupons and LivingSocials of the world have created an impressive business model around deals, Lerer believes that other companies will chip away at this model and create more targeted services.

“I believe that we can provide a certain kind of person a far better experience than a LivingSocial or a Groupon can,” he said. “I read Groupon and Groupon doesn’t feel like it’s written for me. It feels like it’s written for every resident of New York City.”

He does think that the more traditional media companies, such as news brands, will have a harder time embracing this new approach. They are used to making a clear distinction between church and state. Nonetheless, let’s not forget that very traditional news brand The New York Times is trying its hand at this model with the launch of its deals service earlier this year.

“There are so many different ways that brands can go and spend their dollars that if you’re not able to go and make sure that you’re taking advantage of the relationship that you have with your consumer… then you may wake up one day and realize that you don’t have as strong a business as you once thought you did,” said Lerer.

He admits that it takes a lot of work but believes that it is the direction of the future. Social media’s dramatic impact on the media industry will also likely play a big role in this shift. Ironically, with the exception of Foursquare, social media has not played as big of a role in Thrillist’s success as one might expect.

Lerer told us that he recognizes its importance and thinks the company could do more with it, but that the more traditional form of email marketing has proven to be more effective.

“We built Thrillist before social media existed, and so we’re really good at getting people to forward emails and to use email as sort of social media versus leveraging the traditional networks,” he said.

Do you see traditional media companies adopting this model? If so, how critical of a role would social media play?

Thrillist Promotes New Model for Media Companies, and It Involves Deals
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