It's better late than never to RSVP to the Groupon wannabe party.
AOL (NYSE: AOL ) is gearing up to launch Wow.com -- a domain name formerly used to run a site dedicated to fans of Activision Blizzard's (Nasdaq: ATVI ) World of Warcraft -- as a daily deal website.
"Wow provides you and your family with savings at your favorite local and national locations each and every day," the "coming soon" site promises.
A sample deal on the Wow.com site doesn't look all that different from the half-off dining deals popular on Groupon and LivingSocial.
Someone needs to call the fire marshal, because this niche is getting pretty crowded. Travelzoo (Nasdaq: TZOO ) , OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN ) , The Knot (Nasdaq: KNOT ) , and Yelp all announced similar voucher-based initiatives this summer.
The attraction to the model is obvious. Groupon reportedly takes about half of a deal's proceeds -- so the spa offering introductory treatments at 60% off, is really selling it for 80% off. It may seem like a lousy deal for the sponsor, but if it results in repeat traffic or helps fill an empty hotel room, it's a win-win-win scenario.
The model's simplicity and thick margins have propelled Groupon's valuation into the $1.4 billion range. AOL's enterprise value, on the other hand, clocks in at a mere $2.3 billion. Clearly, achieving Grouponesque status would be a sweet deal for AOL investors.
That won't happen, of course, but you do have to like AOL's chances. It already has working relationships with display advertisers, and it reaches a wide enough audience to break down local deals by region. Who cares if AOL isn't first or even early here? If the company takes this initiative seriously -- and once sponsors begin hitting up the email@example.com email to load up the inventory of daily local and national deals, consumers will follow -- this could be one of CEO Tim Armstrong's best moves since coming over from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) to attempt a challenging turnaround.
No offense to the regular visitors of the WOW Insider once housed at Wow.com, but to AOL, this is more than just a game.
Do you think Wow.com will work? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.