Similar values around promoting hyperlocal community events is what unites a two-year-old Raleigh startup and major news provider McClatchy in a new partnership to boost sales, audience and innovation efforts.
Offline Media’s app lays out an assortment of events and experiences for folks to choose from as they plan their weekends, after-work activities and even spontaneous outings.
It’s particularly popular among young people in mid-market cities. In Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham, one in three millennial women with iPhones now use Offline. Conveniently, these are all locations in which McClatchy has a firm footing.
The Sacramento, Calif.-based newspaper publisher owns some media brands familiar to North Carolina residents, such as The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and its most recent acquisition, The Herald Sun in Durham.
This geographic overlap is a driving reason for the partnership, as Offline’s services are growing in popularity within established McClatchy cities.
The deal, which includes both financial and strategic investments from McClatchy, will boost Offline’s footing in those markets, as well as add new ones. McClatchy owns media properties in 29 U.S. markets and 14 states. Its largest markets include Miami, Sacramento, Kansas City, Charlotte and the Triangle.
The financial terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed.
Offline Media Founder and CEO David Shaner says launching new markets in places McClatchy is already present allows the startup to enter “with the wind at our backs and with revenue generation from day one, which gives us a lighter weight business model.”
The partnership will also be heavy on innovation, a factor that will benefit both parties. A key effort will be to integrate existing McClatchy editorial content into Offline or to find ways to integrate Offline’s event discovery offerings into the work of McClatchy newspapers’ editorial content.
The wealth of editorial opportunities in McClatchy’s media outlets begs Offline to think of how that content can be used to point toward its event discovery app.
Shaner shares an anecdote that illustrates the concept:
“The News & Observer today might write a piece about a new restaurant opening. With Offline as a partner, they might now combine that breaking news with an iBeacon-enabled offer for the first 100 Offline members who eat there. It’s all about extending the experience from reading something to doing something, and how technology can help facilitate that.”
It’s well documented that print news organizations have struggled to make ends meet in recent years with competition for advertisers’ dollars. McClatchy’s stock price has declined significantly over the last six months, only rebounding a bit in recent days with news of a new CEO.
Partnerships like this one show an effort by McClatchy to provide more value to advertisers, in hopes of luring back some of the dollars they’re spending elsewhere.
Shaner says the team will take advantage of McClatchy’s leverage and relationships with large advertising partners. Restaurants or venues, for example, could advertise in print, on a McClatchy news site, and via an exclusive promotion to Offline app users, for example.
That kind of ad exposure for Offline would have taken much longer to execute independently without the partnership, Shaner believes.
This isn’t the first investment Offline has secured in its two-year existence. The startup has a history of attracting funders from an assorted mix of industries.
Last year the company closed its first funding round, landing $700,000 from the likes of Michael Holt, former senior VP of sales at Angie’s List, iContact cofounder Ryan Allis and Joe Kustelski, previously CEO of eTix.
Though the group represents a mix of experience, one thing ties them together—they understand how events provide opportunities to sell to small businesses.
With a vision to serve 50 communities by 2020, Shaner sees the partnership as a way to “catalyze that type of scale.” (Expect some news on that later this year.)
The Offline team is already increasing its headcount, jumping from seven to 10 employees this week, which correlates with the startup’s growth and impact in the Triangle.
And as the partnership blooms in the coming weeks and months, Shaner believes the new team members will be crucial in lining up action.
“We have a talented group of people who have put in a lot of hard work,” he says. “And we’re ready to hit the ground running.”