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It’s no secret that newspaper circulation is down, interest in traditional coupons has declined, and those who are still interested in saving are increasingly turning to digital coupons. But that evolution may be in for a rapid acceleration, as one industry leader with a stake in this digital transition is predicting a drastic decline in paper coupons in the coming year.

Steven Boal, CEO of Coupons.com parent company Quotient, recently declared that your Sunday newspaper will soon have much less to offer in terms of savings. Sunday coupon inserts, or free-standing inserts (FSIs) as they’re known in the industry, are falling out of favor, he says. And some major CPGs (consumer packaged goods companies) may be giving up on them altogether.

“We have been told by top CPGs, making up over 20% of all FSI coupon distribution, that they are planning to exit the FSI entirely during the course of 2020,” Boal told investors last week.

Will that mean no more Sunday coupons for some of your favorite brands, as your inserts get 20% thinner? And which brands, exactly, have tipped off Quotient that they are making this move in the new year?

Presumably these brands have also informed the publishers of the SmartSource and RetailMeNot Everyday coupon inserts that they will no longer be advertising or offering coupons in their publications. But neither publisher is confirming that any longtime advertisers are leaving. Coupons in the News also reached out to a couple dozen CPGs, and not surprisingly, none were willing to show their hand and confirm any plans to quit offering insert coupons.

So it’s Boal’s word against the industry. If what he’s saying turns out to be accurate, that would be handy for Quotient, since fewer paper coupons and more digital coupons would certainly benefit Boal’s business at the expense of his more print-focused competitors. If not, well, there’s still no denying that FSIs have seen better days.

RetailMeNot Everyday publisher Valassis is privately owned and doesn’t disclose details about its business. But based on observation alone, many longtime couponers have noted that the offers in their RetailMeNot Everyday inserts don’t seem to be as plentiful or valuable as they used to be.

Publicly-owned News Corp, meanwhile, has conceded to investors that times are tough for its SmartSource coupon insert business. Just last week, chief financial officer Susan Panuccio said revenue at News America Marketing, the division that publishes the SmartSource inserts, declined 10% last quarter, “driven by weakness in free-standing insert products given the ongoing digital migration.”

Her comments came three months after CEO Robert Thomson reported that the division’s revenue also fell in the previous quarter, “driven by continued weakness in free-standing insert products,” noting that “there is clearly a fundamental shift under way in the content landscape.”

As a result, News Corp announced over the summer that it’s “evaluating strategic options” for News America Marketing, which “includes exploring a potential sale”. Thomson said back in August that there have been “quite a few” interested bidders and that “the process is progressing rather well.”

So weakness in News Corp’s coupon insert business could soon become someone else’s problem. And it could represent Quotient’s big opportunity.

“When we started the company in 1998,” Boal said last week, “the expectation was that the FSI would go the way of many other industries that are disrupted by digital.” It took longer than he initially predicted, he said, “but hearing clients now tell us that they are exiting the FSI entirely in 2020… that’s pretty shattering news.”

As those clients presumably turn to Quotient to shift more of their promotional budgets to digital offers, “I could not be more excited to see how this unfolds over the next several years,” Boal said.

Whether Boal is engaging in some industry gamesmanship, or he’s accurately forecasting that your coupon inserts will shrink by 20% as major brands migrate to digital, we’ll find out soon enough. But just to be safe, if you’re a fan of tangible, printed coupons that you can browse through on a leisurely Sunday morning, cut out, bring to the store and hand to your cashier – better enjoy them now while you still can.

3 Comments

  1. totally agree honest,,, specially companies like p n g.. No way they will not continue and if others want to compete they still will too.

  2. Honest Couponer says:

    There’s no way that major manufacturers are suddenly going to stop dropping FSIs altogether. While they might drop fewer FSI coupons and lower the face value of those coupons, they will still continue using FSIs. The Quotient CEO’s comment was Fake News!

    • I work for a major retail rx so I know all savings possibilities in the near future will be digital. Already seeing a lot of of with regard to my companies private coupons.

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