Thrillist Rewards Program Positions Offers As Content -- Not Just Deals
With billions in local ad dollars at stake, the "deal" space is filling up faster than a shot glass. Hoping to stand out from the pack, men's media network Thrillist is positioning its new Rewards program more as a content play than a Groupon-like "deal service."
"We're calling them merchant partnership offers, and we're positioning them more like content," said Mike Rothman, Thrillist's VP of business development, who was recently put in charge of Rewards.
At least for Groupon users accustomed to deals on sushi and yoga, Thrillist Rewards also carries a certain shock factor. Early Rewards included discounts on "a strip and a 'strip' at Scores NY," and "boozy baked goods."
Since launching in 2005, Thrillist has focused most if its efforts on national advertisers, said Rothman. Rewards, he said, is an opportunity to focus on local businesses, which as a group represents big bucks.
Rewards is also a way to meet demand from attention-hungry businesses. For years, according to Rothman, small businesses featured in Thrillist's local newsletters would come back and ask for additional coverage. "Our editorial policy didn't allow us to do that, but now we can with Rewards," he said.
Launched late last year with about 100,000 New York subscribers, Rewards is presently being fine-tuned in anticipation of a national rollout. "We're refining price-points and the message," said Rothman.
Thrillist is shooting for roughly 50% of sales generated by Rewards promotions, but Rothman insisted that the deal terms are flexible and depend on specific business partners. Groupon reportedly commands upwards of 60% of sales, but is facing increased pressure from rivals' deal services.
Meanwhile, thanks to Thrillist's existing relationships with businesses and audiences nationwide, Rothman expects Rewards to expand rapidly. "We already have the scale and merchant relationships," he said.
And Thrillist is going to need every relationship it has to fend off competition from Groupon, LivingSocial, Google, and other deal services.
Google, which reportedly offered upwards of $6 billion last year, just announced its own daily-deal service, Google Offers, and is already reaching out to businesses.
Groupon, for its part, is reportedly preparing for an initial public offering as soon as mid-year. The group-buying leader only recently announced a $950 million round of funding, which valued the company at $4.75 billion.