Print Coupons Holding Their Own — For Now

Along the lines of the last post, here’s a long piece in the NY Times (reg. req’d) on print (specifically newspaper) coupon clipping holding its own against the Internet — for now:

The use of online coupons is rising rapidly, by more than 50 percent a year, but they still account for less than 1 percent of the consumer goods coupons distributed, according to the Promotion Marketing Association, a trade group.

According to research conducted by the Dieringer Research Group (DRG) for the Newspaper Assn of America, print newspapers have the greatest influence of any medium on local purchase behavior. Below are data collected in late 2005.

(Bear with me, I’ll come back to coupons.)

The DRG survey, among other things, sought to measure the relative influence of local media on consumer shopping behavior over the previous 12 months. The question was what media have had any influence on your shopping behavior?

  • Local print newspaper: 39%
  • Internet: 37%
  • TV: 36%
  • Direct mail: 26%
  • Radio: 22%
  • Print yellow pages: 14%
  • Local newspaper website: 5%

(n=2,200 consumers)

When the question was “what media exercised a ‘primary influence’ on local shopping?” that same survey showed print newspapers beating their rivals by at least 13 percentage points.

Okay let’s stop now and acknowledge that this was a piece of sponsored research conducted for the newspaper industry, much like the Knowledge Networks/SRI data came out of Yellow Pages Association sponsored research. But the NAA research displays credibility in my mind because it openly shows the poor performance of newspaper websites.

Let’s assume the accuracy of the data. (Certainly I can point to other data that offer different findings.) The fact that print newspapers are such a powerful influence on consumer shopping is really all about coupons and inserts. Some meaningful number of people subscribe to the Sunday paper not for the news content and arts coverage but for the coupons and inserts: “Where’s the Target ad?” That refrain has been heard around my house, though we now only subscribe to the Sunday NY Times.

As soon as there are some effective and more comprehensive coupons sources online — the NY Times article discusses the new Google initiative — some number of consumers may abandon print. From a consumer efficiency standpoint print will not be able to compete with online ultimately.

But the little secret of Sunday newspaper inserts and coupons is that they’re a form of entertainment. And that can never be duplicated online.

2 Responses to “Print Coupons Holding Their Own — For Now”

  1. Newspapers and the ‘Integrated Marketplace’ « Screenwerk Says:

    […] Jobs, Cars, Real Estate and private party classifieds have generated billions in revenue (more than $18 billion in 2005) for US newspapers. Then there are the ROP and FSI ads, which drive a great many readers/users (see related coupons post). […]

  2. S.E. Sheets Says:

    How can one sign up to receive valpak by regular mail? We received them this way prior to moving to Ft. Worth from Montgomery, Texas, and prefer that to receiving them via internet.

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