NEWSPAPERS took a hit when they lost a big part of their revenue from classified ads to websites like Kijiji and craigslist. They still have flyers to support them, but it's just a matter of time before the Internet figures out a way to take those away, too.
Apple's App Store recently featured flipp as an "essential" app — giving it that extra exposure most developers can only dream of. So I had no trouble finding it, installing it on my iPhone, and marvelling at how closely it resembled the real-life experience of using flyers.
The Toronto-based company, founded in 2007 by former Microsoft engineers, claims to be supported by "some of the largest venture capitalists and retail executives in the world."
At their website you can find the flyers for your location by inputting your postal code. You can sort them by subject, and make "clippings" by clicking on items you're interested in. In some cases, there is the option of buying the item online.
The app (available for iOS and Android) does all this and more. You can stash away coupons, make a shopping list and scan in your loyalty cards. You can also narrow down the number of flyers to your favourites.
I was impressed, first of all, with the number of flyers available. It appears they have all the major outlets in Kamloops covered.
The flyers are laid out the same way as they are in print. You can flip through them and set aside items that catch your eye. The ability to buy online is convenient — especially since the thing you want might not be available in the local store even if you went there. For clothing, you can be sure of getting the size and colour you want.
Even more impressive is the ability of the app to search for individual items regardless of who is selling them. For example, a search on "broccoli" gives you a good idea of which store has the best deal.
A killer feature would be the ability to sort by savings. Shoppers would love to check out a section called "50 per cent off" — regardless of what it contained.
The thing that bothers me about the app is the presentation of flyers in the same way as they are in the print world. This might be a transition phase, but really there is no such thing as flyers in the digital world. There are simply lists of things for sale. It's annoying that the clippings present information in inconsistent ways. The prices, for example, might be shown in different fonts and different sizes or maybe not at all.
For a bargain-hunting app, this seems a bit archaic. I have a feeling we're stuck with this for now because retailers don't want to go to the expense of creating a digital layout for their flyers. One day, though, the tables will be turned and we'll see sale items presented in a way that makes sense for computers — perhaps a gallery that you can flip through and sort. It will be newspapers that have to make do.
And as they say in the description of flipp at the App Store, using print flyers would "cost the lives of many innocent trees."
Mark Rogers is a web content strategist at Thompson Rivers University. He publishes a blog at http://www.newsonaut.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.