My trigger finger wasn't fast enough.
Shula's 347 Grill -- a trendy reboot of the iconic steakhouse chain -- recently opened by my house in Coral Gables. It's not exactly cheap, so I welcomed the opportunity to buy $100 vouchers for $50 from a deal website yesterday.
But I was too slow on the draw. Dozens of available vouchers sold out before I had a chance to buy in.
I wasn't on Groupon or LivingSocial. The half-priced website has actually been around longer than either of those companies. It's run by Clear Channel, where local radio station DJs can push half-priced restaurant vouchers for area eateries with a small processing fee.
Can you believe it? Clear freakin' Channel! An old-school media mogul actually had its finger on the hottest dot-com trend of the moment early, but failed to be the market leader it could have been. Why not? Radio stations reach out to large local audiences daily. Their sales teams have juicy area advertiser contacts in their Rolodexes. The social coupon kingdom was theirs for the taking, but the light bulb failed to go off when the "on air" sign lit up.
Around the dial
It's not just radio that missed the beat. IAC's
Why didn't they connect the dots? They had the attention of foodies and the marketing dollars of local establishments? Why was it Groupon that reportedly smoked out a $6 billion offer from Google
We can't dwell on the missed opportunities, though. Media companies are making up for lost time, and some are doing better than others.
One of the social coupon sites that I think has a more appealing layout is run by none other than CBS
For starters, CBS deals don't necessarily turn into pumpkins at midnight. Groupon's Cinderella model may fuel the urgency to act quickly, but I like how CBS offers hometown bargains that stick around for a few days. I realize that this is simply the byproduct of CBS not having enough deals to match Groupon with my daily offerings in Miami, but I'll take it. There's nothing wrong with some extra time to think a deal over or discuss it with others. The only real shock with the Groupon model is that the site doesn't let you buy into recently expired offers at, say, a diminishing discount over time. Talk about a missed opportunity!
The other thing that I like about CBSLocal is that it often pre-announces the deal swinging away in the on-deck circle. I get Groupon's daily surprise approach. Amazon.com's
Let's get satellite radio in on the fun
Two years ago, I took a whimsical look at what Sirius XM Radio
Here's what I had to say about what I called the Amazon Channel:
No, it's not about the plight of the rainforest or a haven for world music -- it's powered by Amazon.com. Similar to television shopping channels like QVC, Amazon hosts a steady stream of deals that listeners can get in on with their interactive receivers.
Yes, the receivers are now truly interactive. Advertisers pay more, because you can click a button to receive more information directly from sponsors. The biggest music acts are on a waiting list for live appearances, because those spots allow the bands to move everything from concert tickets to T-shirts to digital downloads seamlessly through satellite radio. Did I mention that Amazon powers that, too?
Are we there yet? Is this going to be a major component of Sirius XM 2.0's rollout later this year? Will smartphones bridge the gap of docking stations for personalized information to get back to Sirius XM?
All I know is that I wrote that sci-fi nugget about satellite radio direct commerce a few weeks before John Malone acquired a 40% stake in Sirius XM through Liberty Capital
Wait a minute, though. Sirius XM is national. Even if interactivity is possible, how can it ever take on Groupon with city-specific deals? It's true it doesn't have localized sales teams, but it does offer local content. Both Sirius and XM have several channels dedicated to city-specific weather and traffic. Why can't it wedge in a few local offers there?
Think no one wants to pay a premium to have weather and traffic interrupted by ads? Well, many of the nonmusic channels already have some ad blocks. There's also the crazy notion of making the suddenly monetized weather and traffic channels free. More than half of the satellite receivers out there are dormant. Half of the buyers of new cars with Sirius and XM don't convert into paying customers after their free trials run out, and there's a growing fleet of used cars with inactive receivers. Turn 'em on. Beyond the preview channel, give everyone access to the deal-subsidized weather and traffic channels (which could also plug Sirius XM content when there aren't area deals to push).
The dots are there for the connecting. Cynics who feel that Sirius XM is growing too slow or has margins too thin would have to reassess their bearish arguments, and rightfully so. AOL, IAC, and Clear Channel had a golden opportunity and blew it. Will Sirius XM be savvy enough to buck the trend?
Your move, Mel Karmazin.
Can radio take advantage of the social coupon craze? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Google is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Amazon.com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders how long it will take for Fool.com to begin offering social financial coupons. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.