Wily entrepreneurs know that a crisis is just an opportunity in disguise. While the downturn has forced many local businesses to move their advertising dollars online, no one has come up with an efficient way to display ads from small advertisers with limited budgets across multiple platforms. While many players have ventured into the local advertising market, few have dared to change the game.
PaperG plans to fill that void with its flagship Flyerboard product, a virtual bulletin board that allows users to post ads on local sites the same way a garage band would tack up posters to promote an upcoming gig. The idea for Flyerboard was born out of the virtual billboard system chief executive Victor Wong created for the Yale community to spread the word about local events. Here’s a peek at Flyerboard:
PaperG is entering the realm of hyperlocal advertising at a time when even more metropolitan newspapers are threatened with closure. A key reason why most newspapers have failed to harness local ad revenue beyond classified listings is that their model relies on lengthy contracts. PaperG aims to eliminate these inefficiencies from the system, helping publishers and advertisers alike.
The PaperG team’s latest product, Place Local, allows local advertisers to quickly build and deploy display ads, incorporating photos and other mentions of businesses or products from around the web — like awards and links to restaurant reviews. The ads can then be placed on partner sites for a flat monthly fee, which is how PaperG earns money. The startup expects to go live with Place Local by the end of the summer.
Ad Ready, a Seattle-based company, recently launched new tools for ad customization following a similar product release from Google. While AdReady has raised over $10 million in funding, PaperG’s Wong said his company is ready to handle the competition because there are several segments to the local market. While some local businesses are small in scale, they target a broad audience that could span the entire country. PaperG is focused on creating solutions for local businesses whose target customers are local.
PaperG is an alum of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, an incubator in New Haven, Conn. So far, the company has received less than $1 million in funding from Launch Capital, Sean Glass, former Boston Globe owner and Boston.com publisher Stephen Taylor and others.
PaperG’s partners include Metro Newspapers, Boston.com and Hearst Corp. Wong said they were surprised by how fast Hearst signed a letter of intent — a dizzying three weeks. This speaks to the dire situation newspapers are in and the promise they might see in a technology like Place Local, he added.
I also asked Wong what role he thought his company might play in a media landscape where people are counting on hyperlocal sites to save journalism — especially considering that sites like Patch, The Local from the The New York Times and Outside.in still haven’t found their footing. Wong said that beyond news sites, there are companies like Aparments.com and Trulia that are as local as it gets, and Place Local could be a solution for them. “Everyone is going to have a digital presence and we want to be there for them,” Wong said.
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