Newspapers Beat Out Web in Coupon Market, For Now

Despite the rapid decline of the newspaper industry, thrifty consumers still turn to Sunday circulars as their primary source of coupons, according to a new study from research firm Borrell Associates.

Coupon use in general has gone up 36 percent in the past 12 months — aided in large part by the recession and changing attitudes toward spending — and Sunday circulars still account for 70 percent of all coupons clipped, according to the study.

During that time, the Internet was the source of only 6 percent of all coupons. They did, however, account for 20 percent of the total value, because online coupons are worth roughly twice the value of print coupons.

“That’s because coupons [in newspapers] are mostly for grocery shopping, and that doesn’t happen online,” said CEO Gordon Borrell. “That will change over time as some of the grocery shoppers come online, but right now people are making a lot more of their major purchases online.”

Despite the continued dominance of newspapers in the coupon field, the Internet is expected to make gains at a faster rate in the coming years. According to the study, the Internet will account for about 9 percent of all coupons distributed next year, while newspapers will drop to about 68 percent.

Part of what is driving the increase in coupon use is consumers doing more research before they buy, said Borrell, a phenomenon confirmed by various recent studies.

“There is this great confluence of opportunity between people, these wallet-ready consumers, moving to the computer screen to research before they buy and perhaps away from newspaper circulars and yellow pages directories and direct mail, which are the strongest traditional sources of coupons,” he said.

The study also speculated that the increased interest in coupons, though aided by the flagging economy, isn’t dependent on it, and is likely to continue even after an eventual turnaround. A host of new online coupon sites like Gannet’s or may help sustain the trend.

“The rise in coupon use will likely outlast the economic downturn as marketers come to understand the effect on shopping behavior more fully, and as more companies learn how to employ them,” the study said.

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