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It’s 2019 – so is selling a thick, printed book full of paper coupons that you can tear out and redeem at local businesses an outdated concept?

It may be. So the new owner of a legacy paper coupon business is considering how a nearly 60-year-old analog savings platform fits into a 21st-century digital world.

The British firm Afin Technologies announced last week that it has acquired Entertainment, the longtime publisher of the Entertainment coupon books, promising to “reinvigorate” the company with “a 21st-century approach to a traditional American pastime.” Entertainment’s phone book-sized collections of coupons are sold as part of annual fundraisers for various schools and organizations. But when was the last time you used a phone book?

Entertainment’s former owners announced plans to “move aggressively” on an “expansion into the digital space” – back in 2013. A year later, the company said it would begin phasing out printed coupon books in several markets, in a move aimed at going “from a company that is majority print and minority digital to a company that’s majority digital and minority print.” Major markets would continue to have printed books available “for as long as possible,” the company said, but likely not forever.

Fast forward to 2019, and those books full of paper coupons still haven’t gone away in most markets. The new owners now plan to accelerate the company’s digital expansion. But while they’re not quite ready to call it a day on the printed coupon books, they’re keeping their long-term options open.

“Our plan is to continue the old-styled printed Entertainment coupon books for the foreseeable future which includes the 2020 edition that is already available,” Afin Technologies CEO Lee Evans told Coupons in the News. “While no decision has been made specifically about the book format beyond 2020, we are already in preliminary planning for the 2021 book, which will be the 60th consecutive annual edition.”

And after that, anything’s possible.

Entertainment already offers a subscription-based app with digital discounts, which can be purchased on its own, or is available as a free add-on for those who buy a printed coupon book. Afin, meanwhile, is a digitally-focused company that has its own app called Buxbo, which just recently launched in the U.S. Buxbo is aimed at younger users, offering targeted digital coupons with a “social gaming” approach where users can team up to earn bigger and better discounts.

“Technology has moved on from the coupon books of the past,” Evans said, “but American consumers are still passionate about saving money.”

That passion was evident back in 2013, when popular demand helped bring Entertainment back to life after it abruptly went bankrupt, laid off its employees and left millions of customers wondering if the coupons in their books were even valid anymore. Six weeks of uncertainty came to an end when the company was sold at auction to a group led by Lowell Potiker, the son of Entertainment’s founders who had sold the company some 20 years earlier.

“This acquisition was of great importance to me and my family not just because it continues the legacy of the company’s founders, my parents, but that the Entertainment product is as valuable and relevant today as it was in 1962,” Potiker said at the time.

Now, Potiker leaves the company in much better shape than it was when he acquired it. Afin bought Entertainment for a reported $25 million, far more than the $17.5 million that Potiker paid for it just six years ago.

Going forward, Evans says Buxbo and the Entertainment app will continue to be operated as separate, standalone apps. The two are “complementary, with different offers available on each platform, and opportunities for merchants to distribute and market their promotions and discount offers,” he said. “So our plan is to grow both apps.”

And if you have a 2019 printed Entertainment coupon book, are planning to buy a 2020 edition or are even looking forward to 2021, you can rest assured that the old-fashioned paper coupon option will still be available. What happens in 2022 and beyond, only time – and Entertainment’s new owner – will tell.

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  1. Pingback: Entertainment books going digital? - deranged.mederanged.me

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