Paper or digital? When it comes to couponing these days, it seems everyone is taking sides. Some prefer paper, and hope they don’t live to see digital take over. Some are devoted to digital and can’t wait for paper coupons to go the way of the dodo.

Can’t we all just get along?

Well, instead of battling it out, two companies offering products on either side of the digital coupon divide are now joining forces, to show that two coupon formats together are better than one.

In a unique partnership announced this morning, SmartSource publisher News America Marketing and card-linked coupon platform provider Linkable Networks will make paperless coupons available – in your Sunday newspaper inserts.

Paperless coupons, printed on paper? How would that work?

Linkable Networks helps brands and retailers create coupon offers that link directly to a credit or debit card – no clipping, and no store loyalty card required. When you pay using your card, the discount is automatically applied to your account.

Card-linked offers have great promise, but low usage. So how to get them in front of more eyeballs? By publishing them in a Sunday coupon insert that’s delivered to tens of millions of doorsteps.


Early this summer, alongside its usual clippable consumer packaged goods (CPG) coupons, the SmartSource inserts will begin publishing card-linked retailer and brand offers powered by Linkable. If you see one you like, you just use your phone to text a code associated with that coupon, and it will be linked to your registered debit or credit card. Then the next time you shop, the savings are automatically applied.

SmartSource.com will feature its own selection of card-linked offers, which you can also add to a payment card. Coupons.com currently offers this same feature, but there are only about a half-dozen offers as of this writing, and they’re hard to find unless you’re actively looking for them.

A survey commissioned by Linkable last year found that half of shoppers are interested in using card-linked offers, and 63% of millennials would try a new brand if they received a card-linked offer. So shoppers like card-linked offers in theory, but a separate survey last year found that they just don’t use them very often. A CreditCards.com/GfK Custom Research North America survey found that while nearly half of shoppers liked the concept, only 4% said card-linked offers were the most common way they redeem coupons. 63% said they’re most likely to use paper coupons.

So News America and Linkable hope getting card-linked offers in front of millions of Sunday newspaper readers via free-standing coupon inserts (FSIs) will help card-linked offers become the next big thing.

“Almost everyone in America has an FSI sitting on their kitchen counter at this very moment,” Linkable Networks president Mike DiFranza told Coupons in the News. “Consumers frequently see deals in the FSI, but forget to take the coupons with them when they go shopping – or they simply forget to pull them out of their wallets at checkout because they’re in a hurry. Our partnership with News America Marketing eliminates these scenarios: Consumers will be able to link a coupon to their registered card with a simple text and see the savings automatically credited to their accounts when they shop.”

The partnership also increases the variety of offers you’ll see in your SmartSource inserts. “News America Marketing’s objective in this partnership with Linkable Networks is to expand the value of SmartSource beyond CPGs to allow consumers to access more incentives and save money on a variety of additional retail categories, products and services,” News America Marketing CEO Marty Garofalo said. “Additionally, specialty retailers and brands will gain access to a whole new audience through the FSI, a favorite consumer source of savings for decades and one that remains relevant to today’s millennial shopper.”

It’s a case of paper coupons giving a boost to paperless coupons – and maybe the other way around, too.

Despite the rise of digital, newspaper insert coupons still have the largest distribution by far, representing nearly 90% of all CPG coupons available. So piggybacking on that distribution will allow Linkable to get offers in front of shoppers who are interested in card-linked coupons, but might not know much about them or where to get them. At the same time, News America parent company News Corp reported recently that its coupon insert business has been sluggish lately. So incorporating digital offers can only help to boost printed inserts’ relevance and profitability in this increasingly digital age.

It’s a potential win-win for both companies, then – and a win for couponers, too. So whether you prefer paper coupons or paperless, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Maybe we really can all get along.

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