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A First Look At Glenn Beck's Groupon-like MarkDown.com
While I am not a diehard follower of Glenn Beck's radio program, I find the guy interesting to listen to and nearly always entertaining. Therefore, I will occasionally tune in while I am at work and in desperate need of some sensationalism before lunch. Mr. Beck never fails to deliver: Witness MarkDown.com, his new product to hawk throughout his media empire.
For the past few days, Glenn has been devoting a considerable amount of time to discussing MarkDown, a deal site cut much from the same cloth as Groupon and SocialLiving. At first, I puzzled at his sudden interest in promoting a service completely unrelated to his politics or surviving the collapse of mankind. Thankfully, he clarified the topic directly: His company, Mercury Radio Arts, owns MarkDown under its subsidiary Mercury Digital Labs. Ah ha.
Enough about Beck -- what is MarkDown.com?
Have you heard of LivingSocial? 1SaleADay? Surely you've come across Groupon? Well, MarkDown: Value And Values is the newest contender in the fight for controlling the social deals marketplace. If you've ever participated in one of these daily deals before, you know what to expect:
- a featured deal of the day is placed front and center on the homepage
- promotional copy urges you to buy now now NOW!!!
- a timer ticks down ominously as the deal's expiration looms ever closer
- helpful graphics guide your eyes to important stuff like "buy now!" and "tell your friends!"
This sums up entirely the purpose of MarkDown, at least for its inception. Once the countdown for the deal has ended, a new product or service takes its place. For the most part, this is how all of these Groupon-like sites work.
So what elevates MarkDown.com above its competitors?
First of all, the social aspect of referring friends for better deals is somewhat unique. Like LivingSocial, you have a chance to purchase the deal at no cost to you, assuming you can refer enough friends who in turn also buy the product. However, whereas LivingSocial requires three referral purchases to make it free, MarkDown has a graduated discount scale where each referral lowers your purchase price by 10%. Pretty nifty that it doesn't have to be all or nothing in order to take advantage of your referrals.
To differentiate itself from the powerhouse Groupon, MarkDown does not require a minimum number of participants in order for the deal to go live. I don't have a lot of experience using Groupon, but I imagine that the only reason the requirement exists is because there will be that one deal that you just have to get that is cancelled due to lack of interest. Conversely, MarkDown doesn't penalize you for being the only one in the world who needs a three year's supply of freeze-dried macaroni-and-cheese.
Oddly, MarkDown does not update its deals in a daily fashion. According to their website:
We work hard every day to find and negotiate exclusive deals that we think are worthy of bringing to your attention. You won’t hear from us unless we succeed. That means no “daily” emails to announce marginal deals—when we announce a Markdown it’s for a very good reason.
This appears to be true. I signed up for MarkDown out of curiosity, and have not received the numerous emails you would expect from a site like this. The current offer, a 3 month subscription to LifeLock, has been on the homepage all day and still has over 4 days to go until expiration. I'm curious if this will change in the future once more advertisers are attracted to the concept.
How is Glenn Beck involved?
Surprise: Glenn's grinning face is not plastered all over the homepage like I expected. In fact, I can not find a single mention of the conservative pundit anywhere on MarkDown, not even in the "About Us" page. A few mentions of Mercury Digital Labs, LLC buried in fine print are the only traces of Mr. Beck to be found. If you didn't come across the site from some sort of Glenn Beck-related news, I doubt you'd have any idea he was involved.
Make no mistake, though -- the full force of Glenn Beck's marketing might is behind MarkDown.com. Whether you listen to him on the radio, browse his website, or read his newsletter, the propaganda is quite unsubtle. Despite his faults, Mr. Beck is an amazing promoter. One might even say he has the Midas Touch, eh Goldline?
Perhaps it is a coincidence, but I can't shake the idea that Beck is branching out in order to diminish the effect of leaving Fox News will have on his profits. Regardless, MarkDown may be the first of many future projects to reach beyond his current base. For now, we'll have to wait and see how successful Glenn Beck is with a service that is apolitical.
Can MarkDown.com succeed?
While the barrier to entry in social deals is high, Beck's name alone still commands millions of advertising dollars. Thus far, he has been pretty vague on how future deals will be selected and how long they will run for. The referral discount is a nice perk, though, and might be the main draw to MarkDown for potential buyers.