Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Checkout Coupon Company Joins Boom in Online Discount Offers
A COMPANY long known for providing shoppers with coupons at store checkouts is joining the popular, crowded category of online coupons.
The Catalina Marketing Corporation is introducing Coupon Network by Catalina, to be found online at Advertisers with offers on the Web site include pantry mainstays like Campbell Soup, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Nestlé, Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever.
There are also some unexpected offers on, among them savings on toys from the Fisher-Price division of Mattel and light bulbs from General Electric.
Coupon Network is an addition to the decades-old businesses that Catalina calls shopper-driven marketing, intended to help advertisers more efficiently and effectively reach target audiences. Catalina estimates that it distributes more than $6.5 billion in coupons to shoppers each year through its printers at store checkout counters.

The checkout coupons provided by Catalina compete for consumer favor with coupons in free-standing inserts, which are the coupon booklets carried in Sunday newspapers; coupons in magazines and so-called penny-saver publications; and coupons distributed by direct mail.
Catalina is so well known for checkout coupons that many devoted couponers, as avid discount-seekers refer to themselves, call the offers “Catalinas.” There are few higher accolades in marketing than a brand becoming synonymous with a product, whether it is Band-Aid, Kleenex or Q-Tip.
Still, the online coupon field is alluring, because it is booming. Two factors are feeding its growth.
One is the increasing influence of the Internet in everyday life. Not only are there printers in millions of homes, readily printing out coupons from Web sites, but there is also the phenomenon of social daily-deal coupons from companies like Groupon and LivingSocial.
The other factor benefiting online coupons is the recent bumpy economy. Coupon redemption rates had been falling for decades until the recent recession.
Although online coupons account for only 1 percent of all coupons distributed, they account for about 10 percent of all coupons redeemed, said Susan Gear, group vice president for digital at Catalina in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Ms. Gear also noted that consumers “can print out coupons for exactly the products they want,” which adds to their appeal.
For some time, Ms. Gear said, Catalina had been considering an entry into the online coupon realm, joining Web sites like,,, and
The idea gathered momentum after Catalina took technological steps in the last couple of years that included offering coupons by mobile e-mail, handling Target’s coupons section on its Web site and acquiring E-centives, an Internet coupon company.
In developing the Web site, Catalina consulted with advertisers, retailers and bloggers, among them the “Super-Coupon Queen,” Jill Cataldo.
“They’ve got a lot of great printable coupons” on, said Ms. Cataldo, of Huntley, Ill., who has a Web site,, and writes “Super-Couponing Tips,” a nationally syndicated column.
Coupon Network “is doing a good job giving us coupons we might not have seen before and are pretty relevant to what I buy,” she added.
Those are welcome words to an advertiser like Karl Schmidt, director for promotional marketing at General Mills in Golden Valley, Minn. “We’ve been going digital with print-at-home coupons since tests in 2001,” he said.
“In the early days of print-at-home, six, seven years ago, there were issues with redemption,” Mr. Schmidt said, as retailers declined to accept them. As that largely disappeared, digital coupons have become “a significant percentage of our spending,” he added.
“We get great results; it’s the perfect self-targeting medium,” Mr. Schmidt said. “And they’re available 24/7.”
Also, “digital coupons attract younger consumers,” he said, “who aren’t buying the Sunday newspapers” that carry free-standing inserts.
In the digital coupon realm, Catalina executives “are playing come from behind, which they’re probably not used to,” Mr. Schmidt said. “But they have strong content and a strong sales force.”
Another point in Catalina’s favor is that includes a type of Catalina in-store offer, called YourBucks, that are prized by couponers like Ms. Cataldo because they offer discounts off whatever they buy the next time they shop rather than savings on a single specified item the way regular coupons do.

The retailers whose checkouts have been home to Catalina’s printers are unlikely to bemoan the company’s expansion online because they, too, have been going digital.
“More and more of our offerings are moving online as well, replacing circular coupons,” said Karen Meleta, a vice president at ShopRite, part of the Wakefern Food Corporation in Keasbey, N.J.
There is a section of devoted to YourBucks along with other coupons.
Ms. Gear said Catalina has also been considering initiatives in areas like daily deals and group buying, adding, “We’re working with our clients to figure out how to market in this new world.”
“There’s a fun, engaging, gaming element to couponing,” Ms. Gear said. “We are exploring how you take the concept of social networks and add that to it.”
Among the attractive aspects of how social coupons work are the “element of urgency to the daily-deal buying,” she added, and their interruptive nature as companies “send out texts or e-mails.”
Because Catalina is privately held, she added, the company would not disclose how much it has spent on developing Coupon Network. Catalina is owned by the investment firm Hellman & Friedman.

'In Financial Circles, It's Pretty Well Known That Trump Is a Deadbeat'

By Joshua Green
Everybody knows that Donald Trump is a showman, and that's helped rocket him to a level of political celebrity most people wouldn't have imagined. But it looks to me like Trump is about to experience the downside of sudden political fame. That downside is scrutiny. Trump doesn't seem to mind--indeed, seems rather to enjoy--the scrutiny of his personal life, the models, etc. But he's awfully thin-skinned about his business affairs, and that's where things are heading next.

Last night, NBC News did a damning expose of Trump's record, which is replete with bankruptcies, lawsuits, and aggrieved former investors. But that only scratched the surface. Trump's hilarious, bombastic dismissal of Mitt Romney's business career, coupled with his heightened political profile and rampant egotism, suddenly seems to be rubbing Wall Street folks the wrong way. Financiers who chuckled about Trump, have become peeved and willing to share their thoughts on his business acumen.

Earlier this evening, I had the opportunity to get the unvarnished thoughts of a former Deutsche Bank employee familiar with Trump from this $640-million deal gone awry on the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. Trump was sued to collect on a $40-million personal guarantee that was part of the deal. Suffice it to say, the banker held a dim view of the Donald. "[The Chicago deal] was pretty minor given all the other things going on at the time. Real estate developers do default from time to time," he said. "But this guy has been doing it for 20 years, failing. Remember the Trump Shuttle? That's why he'll never run. His finances just won't hold up to scrutiny. It's pretty well known in financial circles that this guy is a deadbeat."

I expect we'll be hearing a lot more along these lines. Since Trump's business reputation is the thing he seems to prize above all else, I doubt he'll enjoy this, which is why I don't think he'll stick around for the long haul, regardless of what the poll numbers say. 

What Donald Trump's Birther Investigators Will Find in Hawaii

By Joshua Green
The path to Obama's birth certificate, as told by someone who's looked

Donald Trump - Joshua Roberts Reuters - banner.jpg
credit: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Donald Trump is making a big show of his sudden, flamboyant conversion to "birtherism"--the absurd belief that President Obama wasn't born in the United States. Trump has dispatched private investigators to Hawaii to look into Obama's origins, and he's getting plenty of mileage from an often-credulous media by insinuating darkly about what they're finding. Republican voters seem to like it.

Lost in this circus is that Trump is hardly the first Obama opponent to harbor these suspicions--or to act on them. The path his investigators are presumably taking is a well-trodden one. Others have already looked. And one of them agreed, on the condition of anonymity, to walk me through exactly what Trump's private eyes will find. Here's what I learned:

When you go to Hawaii to investigate Obama's birth, what you're looking to examine are public records. They're easy to find. Fly into the Honolulu airport, rent a car, and drive downtown to the state library. You can't miss it: it's practically in the shadow of the gold-leaf King Kamehameha statue in front of the Aliiolani Hale, the former palace. Once inside the library, head downstairs where they keep the microfilm. Obama was born (they tell us) on August 4, 1961, but you'll want the August 13, 1961 edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, because that's when the birth announcement appeared. When you've loaded up the film, flip to the back pages, to the section of the paper called "Vital Statistic." This is the record of births, marriages, and deaths provided by the Hawaii Department of Health's Bureau of Vital Statistics. When you get to Page B-6, scan down the lefthand column--there it is, toward the bottom:

Congratulations! You've located the birth announcement. Nothing indicates obvious Kenyan-Communist plotting or the nefarious handiwork of Bill Ayers. And the competing paper, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, also published an announcement. But you'll want to be diligent and investigate that address. So you'll head back upstairs and hunt down a copy of the Honolulu City Directory. Actually, because these documents are snapshots in time, you'll want the city directories from 1960 through 1962, to see if you can establish any pattern of movement.

After you've lugged them to a table, you'll find the address: it turns out to belong to the Dunhams, who are the parents of Ann Dunham, Obama's mother. If you keep looking, you'll also discover that Barack Obama Sr. is listed at a separate address, 625 11th Ave. in Kaimuki, close to the University of Hawaii. So you can surmise that Obama's parents may not have lived together. You can also find a newspaper article in which Barack Obama Sr. talks about how he is going to Harvard. A short while later, Obama's mother, Ann, returns to using her maiden name, Dunham, and several years after that, the parents divorce. And that's all you're going to find.

Obama was born at the Kapiolani Medical Center, where he (or more likely his mother) was issued a "certificate of live birth," the cat-nippy phrase that gets the birthers howling at the moon. You can visit the Kapiolani Medical Center. But you can't obtain a copy of Obama's certificate of live birth because the Federal Health Information Privacy Act of 1999, which protects medical records from public scrutiny, forbids it. The Obama campaign probably worsened the situation by releasing this copy of a certificate of live birth--worsened it because this is obviously only a copy (printed from a computer) and not the original. So the effect on the birther rumors was like the effect of steroids on Barry Bonds: it made everything bigger and uglier.

But the point is, that's it. That's the whole paper trail, all there is to find. My friend says you can do the entire investigation in a single day: Leave DC first thing in the morning, obtain the documents, and you'll still have time to sip a mai-tai on the beach before catching your flight home in the evening. He even went on Expedia and made me an itinerary: the whole trip would only cost $1228.40 (mai-tai not included). So, for me, the takeaway here is that Trump is a fool; he's getting robbed by his investigators, who are taking their sweet time in Hawaii; and he's not going to turn up anything. Also, I'm going to bring this surprisingly reasonably priced itinerary to my editor's attention and see if I can't wangle an assignment.