Change is in the air for Groupon, and some of it is rather eyebrow-raising.
First up is the announcement that Andrew Mason's company is snatching up Curtis Lee from online game company Zynga Inc. to serve as vice president of consumer products. While it's a sizable feather in Castle Groupon's large proverbial cap, Zynga isn't exactly the media darling Groupon might want to align itself with in its customer's mind. Anyone who's ever played FarmVille, Mafia Wars 2, or Words With Friends (or anything else Zynga has put out) might be aware of the criticisms often lobbed against the game company: Namely, that the company allegedly swipes game concepts from other developers, that its games are little more than spamming billboards that turn your friends into resources to prod into buying more Zynga products, oh, and that the viability of the company's business model is repeatedly under question.
That latter point might sound familiar, since it's also an accusation that Groupon has been facing down more and more recently, but you can at least credit Mason for this much: His company isn't holding still, it won't go down without a fight and it always manages to keep things interesting. TechCrunch got this much out of a Groupon spokesperson: "We're excited to have him," but no indication of how his new role might impact Groupon in the bigger picture. Is Groupon planning some sort of social media master stroke? We might start hearing some news on that front since Lee is reportedly due to start working at the Palo Alto office as early as next week.
Across the pond, Groupon has finally acknowledged its British outpost needs to shape up and play by the rules. Like Groupon America, the British Groupon has had its repeated run-ins with deals gone awry or the occasional, allegedly, misleading offer -- like a Christmas offer that ended with in an elf quitting and children crying. Really. Anyway, the Tribune is reporting that on Friday, Groupon says it'll try to play nicer with the Office of Fair Trading. Here's what UK Managing Director Roy Blanga said a statement:
"As a young and innovative business, Groupon acknowledges that our processes and procedures have not always kept pace with our rapid growth. We have independently made many improvements since early 2011 and have worked transparently and constructively with the OFT to identify areas that require further changes."
Finally, Groupon's stock is at a paltry $17.62 as of press time. What's it gonna take for it to bounce back?
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.