- Associated Press - Friday, February 4, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - The Associated Press is developing mobile versions of the advertising and coupon inserts that come with weekend newspapers.

The news service said Friday that its board has approved testing the new offering, called iCircular.

Advertisers would be able to target customers on their devices by ZIP code. Readers would be able to search for specific products and share deals with friends.

The AP said newspapers would sell the ads and build the iCircular feature into mobile versions of their websites and applications for smart phones and tablet computers.

The development comes as companies such as Groupon offer services for local advertisers to reach people on websites and mobile devices. AP’s iCircular would allow newspapers to offer similar mobile services, rather than cede that business to other companies.

The AP said iCircular will also let retailers promote sales and specific products, just as they now do with printed weekend inserts. Groupon, by contrast, focuses on offering steep discounts on a single product or business, such as bottles of wine or yoga classes, for a limited time.

“In my experience in calling on large retail customers, this is one of the most enthusiastic receptions I have seen,” said Mary Junck, president and CEO of Lee Enterprises Inc. and chairwoman of AP’s Revenue Committee. “They are impressed by the features and functions, and by the fact that the idea comes from the newspaper industry.”

The AP, a not-for-profit cooperative owned by its member U.S. newspapers, plans to build and test iCircular over the next four months with a limited group of publishers and retailers.



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