To prop up local advertisers, newspapers help small businesses sell gift cards

Gannett has rolled out a product for its local newspapers to give readers an option to buy gift cards from local businesses.

Called Support Local, the product allows readers to browse businesses in a local market offering gift cards. The businesses are sorted in alphabetical order. Nearly 10,000 businesses across the U.S. have added themselves to Support Local since Gannett first launched the product last month, and it has drawn over 1 million pageviews.

The Dallas Morning News, The Boston Globe and Newsday, a newspaper based on Long Island, N.Y., have rolled out white-labeled versions of Support Local in the past month.

For now, Gannett isn’t charging publishers or businesses to use its platform. But just as coronavirus is accelerating different trends seen across media, including ranging from remote work to live video, Source Local could help nudge more local news publishers toward a marketplace model that takes advantage of the role they play in local communities.

As uncertainty and disruption have rolled through the global economy, publishers have done whatever they can to make themselves useful to advertisers. Some sales leaders have replaced lunch and learns with Seamless deliveries; others have overhauled their consumer research to help CMOs understand how consumer behavior is evolving.

But while national advertisers face the prospect of a rough few months or a meager couple of fiscal quarters, the coronavirus pandemic has many small businesses facing the prospect of bankruptcy. Local newspapers are no different, however. Gannett itself is in dire straits.At the beginning of the month, it announced it was planning to cut more than $100 million in expenses through salary reductions, elimination of travel and the pause of several projects. Gannett’s stock is down 90% for the year and trades under $1.

Some, such as Newsday, have launched message boards for small businesses designed to foster communication. Others have launched platforms that connect volunteers to one another.

“We’ve started some discussions about what are some of the ways we could be helping each other,” said Fran Wills, president of the Local Media Consortium.

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