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Is General Mills single-handedly saving the printable coupon?

Perhaps not, but the company is helping to add a little more oomph to the traditional first-day-of-the-month new printable coupon collection on Coupons.com, after last month’s selection proved to be alarmingly lackluster.

There are nearly 60 new printable coupons available today on Coupons.com, the largest printable coupon site. Coupons.com adds offers throughout the month, but typically releases dozens of new offers on the first day of each month, as old ones expire and are rotated out.

But that didn’t happen last month, when only a couple of dozen new offers appeared on May 1st. Major manufacturers like General Mills and Procter & Gamble took a pass on the printable party, leaving the day to smaller brands like Canada Dry, Earth’s Best and Sally Hansen.

That was enough to cause some hand-wringing about the very future of print-at-home coupons, as many industry groups have been predicting their demise for some time now.

But printables are back! So if you’re a fan of printing your own coupons at home, you can relax!

Maybe.

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P&G has a handful of older offers currently available on Coupons.com, but it once again hasn’t come up with any new first-of-the-month offers. After mostly sitting out last month, General Mills brands have 24 new offers available today.

That’s 24 offers out of 58, which means General Mills coupons represent more than 40% of the new offers available today. Subtract General Mills from the equation, just like it subtracted itself last month, and you’d be left with another lackluster first-of-the-month selection.

Which means a single company appears to be playing an outsized role in propping up printable coupons.

Many manufacturers and coupon providers are pushing digital coupons, while standing by that old standby, the Sunday coupon insert. Inserts are a relatively affordable and effective way to reach a broad audience, while digital coupons allow for greater controls and personalization.

And printables, in comparison, are kind of a pain. Fraudsters have grown proficient in creating counterfeit printable coupons, while others keep coming up with ways to get around print limits and print as many legitimate printable coupons as they’d like. Printables are also easy to trade and sell online as PDF files, so they don’t even need to be mailed like other paper coupons.

So some manufacturers have had enough. No one has gone so far as to publicly declare that they will never offer a print-at-home coupon again. But every time new coupon usage statistics come along that suggest a decline in printable coupon use, many industry players seize the opportunity to declare printables dead and gone.

And if they say it often enough, they may help to make it come true.

There’s no doubt that digital coupons are becoming more popular. According to Inmar, more than 225 million digital coupons were redeemed last year, nearly three times as many as the 72.5 million printable coupons redeemed. But both totals are dwarfed by the 716 million insert coupons that were redeemed last year.

So the debate over digital versus print-at-home will continue. But while we wait to see whether last month’s printable drought was a blip, or the beginning of a troubling trend, don’t lose sight of the Sunday paper. Paper coupons may represent the past – but it appears they still have quite a future.

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