Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Amazon Buys Shelfari and its Innovative UI

Written by Richard MacManus / August 26, 2008 12:45 AM / 4 Comments

Shelfari, a small book sharing startup, was acquired today by Amazon (an existing investor in the company). Shelfari is known for its innovative user interface, something which we've discussed a few times on ReadWriteWeb. Shelfari's competitors include GoodReads and LibraryThing. The relationship with the latter has been frosty, with LibraryThing writing on its site today that Shelfari is a "clone" and that it is "somewhat less intellectual, less featureful", among other barbs.

Despite LibraryThing's criticisms, Shelfari has impressed us with its innovative UI. As Alex Iskold wrote in May, Shelfari developed a contextual UI for interacting with individual books. "The remarkable thing about this UI", wrote Alex, "is that it violates a lot of classic principles yet it succeeds in delivering the necessary functions in a contextual and compact way." He goes on to describe this:

"When the user mouses over a book, a contextual popup comes up containing information about the book and a set of associated actions. Part of the popup is a button/menu (sort of like a button and combo box) widget that allows the user to provide information about what he or she did with the book. The first thing to note is that combination of a button in a menu is not standard, yet it makes sense because it saves a click for the most important action. Secondly, the menu is effectively a popup within a popup, which is a big no-no in the classic world, but works well in this context. The elements of the menu are not buttons but check boxes, which allow multiple selection - another violation of classic user interface elements, but which works very well in this context. What is remarkable is how intuitive this gadget is - you are interacting with it in the context of a book and each choice is simple and clear.

Such clarity and simplicity was never present in the old interfaces. Clearly, this new approach to UIs is great, and early adopters are loving it. But will it cross over to the mainstream?"

abe-amazon-logo.pngTo answer Alex's question, in a way it already has crossed over to the mainstream - as Borders implemented a very similar design near the end of May. But in general whether Shelfari goes mainstream will depend on how Amazon integrates it with its core business and with products such as the e-Reader Kindle.

Also it's worth noting that Amazon has been busy lately with book-related acquisitions. Earlier this month Amazon announced its acquisition of AbeBooks, an online marketplace for used and rare books. Interestingly AbeBooks owns 40% of LibraryThing!

LibraryThing is clearly worried about today's acquisition. In the above-linked piece, founder and lead developer of LibraryThing Tim Spalding notes that "Amazon can make Shelfari the choice of casual book-lovers who see a button on Amazon.com and click on it." LibraryThing hopes to compete with this by being a superior service. However it's very difficult to compete against Amazon's bulk.

Good luck to LibraryThing, we all love a feisty competitor. For now, tell us in the comments what you think Amazon will do with Shelfari now that it owns it outright.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Where Have All the Online Travelers Gone?

AUGUST 25, 2008

The number of travelers booking online is down. What's up?

This year US travel sales booked online will reach $105 billion, up 12% from 2007.

eMarketer forecasts that US online leisure and unmanaged business travel sales (including airline, hotel, rental car, vacation package, intercity rail and cruise) will reach $105 billion. Furthermore, from 2007 to 2012, sales will increase at an 11.6% average annual rate.

Even though online travel sales are growing, fewer travelers are booking their trips online.

"The fact that fewer travelers are booking online is not due to economic concerns—online travel bookers are an affluent demographic—it is caused by frustrations related to the planning and booking capabilities of online travel agencies," says Jeff Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer and author of the new report, US Online Travel: Planning and Booking. "This, in turn, is spurring a renewed appreciation for the expertise and personalized services offered by traditional travel agents."

In other words, online travel sites are steering customers back to offline travel agents—a complete turnaround of what has been happening in the category for the last decade.

"Not so long ago industry observers cast traditional travel agents as has-beens," says Mr. Grau. "Perhaps this has helped them to focus on what they do best: provide travel expertise and personalized service."

Customer dissatisfaction with online travel agencies (OTAs) stems specifically from unfriendly booking engines and navigation tools.

With few points of differentiation, OTAs have a hard time building customer loyalty and have driven travelers right into the open arms of traditional travel agencies—and new online competitors.

"Mired in old technology, the OTAs have failed to keep pace with a newer and more innovative breed of travel Websites built around user-generated content," says Mr. Grau.

Online travel communities are emerging to carry the torch of innovation.

"In addition, a new breed of matchmaking travel sites is bringing traditional travel agency talent online," says Mr. Grau. "Sites like Zicasso and Tripology help travelers to exotic locales find travel agents tailored to their interests and needs."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Online Ad Industry Dealmakers Busy Despite Dull Economy

Despite a weakening U.S. economy during the past year, the level of investment deals and acquisitions involving companies in the online advertising world have remained healthy, says a new report by ContentNext Media.

The "Online Advertising Deals Report" focuses on activity between the second quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2008. During the period, there were 160 venture capital investments in the industry, according to the report. Most but not all of those -- 137 -- revealed financial information; disclosed investments added up to more than $1.9 billion.

ContentNext estimates the overall investment in online ad companies during the period -- including the investments where money wasn't revealed -- totaled more than $2.1 billion with the average investment coming in at about $14 million.

In a quarter-to-quarter comparison, ContentNext says that, while the number of investments in online advertising companies declined slightly, the money involved increased by about $100 million, going from $300 million during Q2 of 2007 to $400 million during Q2 of 2008.

The researchers said 100 acquisitions took place during the period. Financial details were revealed for only 46, but ContentNext estimates the value of both disclosed and non-disclosed acquisitions to be $20.5 billion. It noted that 16 acquisitions occurred during Q2 of 2007 while there were 26 in the second quarter of this year.

In both investments and acquisitions, there were some mammoth deals during the past year, notes the report. It cited Federated Media and Glam Media raising at least $50 million in investment money.

Then, notes the report, there was the Big Kahuna of acquisitions: Google's April 2007 purchase of Doubleclick for $33 billion, a deal that made even the $6 billion acquisition by Microsoft of aQuantive and Yahoo's acquisition of Right Media for $680 million seem small.

The Google/Doubleclick deal could be seen as proof that, as Kent State University Practitioner-in-Residence Lauren Rich Fine writes in the report, "ad networks are all the rage."

Fine added that while most ad networks are "only as good as the inventory" they can amass and rarely have exclusive rights to Web sites, "they are extraordinarily powerful as a way to monetize more pageviews and allow larger marketers to put more meaningful dollars to work."

Indeed, ad networks were the most active sector for both investments and acquisitions. ContentNext found 78 ad network company investments and 44 ad network acquisitions during the period.

It said service companies [defined by ContentNext as third-party companies offering advertising and/or marketing solutions online, such as Greenfield Online] were the next most active segment, with 33 investments and 39 acquisitions. They were followed by technology companies such as Ripple Networks, businesses that are creating online ad solutions including platforms, marketplaces and new algorithms. ContentNext found 27 investments and five acquisitions involving technology companies.

Google might have topped the list in terms of money spent, but it was AOL that compiled the most acquisitions during the period, says the report. AOL engaged in eight transactions, followed by Aegis Group with six, Microsoft with five, Google with three and Meredith Corp., also with three.

Draper Fisher Jurvetson led in terms of the amount of investment in the industry. ContentNext said the firm was involved in five rounds of investment. Second on the list was Mayfield China with four rounds, according to the report.

ContentNext Network Editor and Publisher Rafat Ali said the huge Google/Doubleclick deal might skew any analysis based purely on deal dollars. He said he found it more educational to look at the less flamboyant activity.

"The point is not necessarily the full total values of deals," said Ali. "What's more interesting are the small mid-level deals. For me, the more interesting activity is on the venture capital side where innovation is happening."

One place investment money did not seem to be going was search advertising, according to the report.

"Surprisingly, pure search advertising plays are limited, while more entrepreneurial investment is going into emerging categories such as social media, video and behavioral," it says.

Ali believes Google's dominance of the search sector is the likely explanation. "It does show the concentration of power in terms of Google," he said. "Because of Google's dominance, startups are worried about starting anything in search advertising and trying to take on Google."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Web Is Sole Bright Spot in Auto Ad Mix

AUGUST 19, 2008

Detroit advertisers look to online for economy.

The automotive industry is having a rough year, and the effects are spilling over into its advertising. In Q1 2008, online was the only medium for which automotive ad spending did not fall, according to Bernstein Research. The research firm said that even Internet ad spending by automakers rose only 3.8% over Q4 2007, accounting for 8.6% of total online advertising.

"After consistently leading the US in advertising spending, the automotive sector has dropped into the No. 2 spot behind retail," said Lisa E. Phillips, senior analyst at eMarketer. "Ad spending in the sector is going in reverse—everywhere except on the Internet."

Automakers have seen light truck and SUV sales plummet as well as increased demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles that will require retooling and change from the entire industry.

Autobytel reported that its top 10 requested vehicles in 2007 were fuel-efficient models—even if they are more expensive and smaller than their siblings. And although trucks and SUVs accounted for one-half of US sales last year, they were missing from Autobytel's most-requested list.

In this environment, advertisers large and small are using digital to make every dollar count. eMarketer estimates online ad spending by the entire automotive industry (excluding car rental and insurance) will reach $2.98 billion in 2008.

Portals Unfazed by Economy

AUGUST 19, 2008

Online ad revenues keep climbing, especially for Google.

Google had strong financial results for Q2 2008, and online ad revenues for the top four Internet portals (Google, Yahoo!, MSN and AOL) will continue to grow through the US economic downturn. In fact, eMarketer predicts that Google's online ad revenues will increase by 27.4% in the US in 2008.

The top four Web portals in the US still account for more than one-half of all online advertising revenues.

"Even as Google's main competitors—Yahoo!, MSN and AOL—take in smaller shares of the entire US Internet ad market, 25.7% of all US online ad dollars will flow through those three portals, in contrast to 30.7% for Google alone," Mr. Hallerman added.

Among the top four portals, Google's share of online ad revenues nearly doubled to 57% in 2007 from 30% in 2004, according to Collins Stewart.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Avenue A | Razorfish to develop new Social Media Offering - Going Social Now

Avenue A | Razorfish to develop new Social Media Offering - Going Social Now: "Avenue A | Razorfish to develop new Social Media Offering
By Shiv Singh on August 6, 2008 3:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Today we made an exciting announcement to develop new social media advertising offerings in partnership with Pluck. The offering, code-named AdLife, will inject social media features like customer comments and user-generated content into digital advertisements such as banner ads or microsites - in effect, turning mainstream ads into social media opportunities distributed across the digital world.

What's so special about this? It brings together two major trends on the web - firstly consumers are more influenced by their peers than by any traditional forms of advertising. Secondly, nothing can beat the potential distribution and placement of a message via a display advertisement on the web. Putting social media elements into the ad
units makes them more interactive, personal, accessible, relevant and engaging to users. It's a natural extension of everything that has been done on the display advertising space on the web before.

At Avenue A | Razorfish, we're one of the largest buyers of online media in the world and we're partnering with Pluck, a social media technology vendor serves 2.5 billion impressions a month to bring this to life. For more information r"

KMWorld.com: The innovation imperative

KMWorld.com: The innovation imperative: "KMWorld interviews John Kao, author of Innovation Nation and opening keynote speaker at our annual KMWorld & Intranets Conference Sept. 23 to 25 in San Jose.

KMWorld interviews John Kao, author of Innovation Nation and opening keynote speaker at our annual KMWorld & Intranets Conference Sept. 23 to 25 in San Jose.

Q. KMWorld: Your book, Innovation Nation, has been widely acknowledged as bringing innovation to the forefront of our thinking, not just for the business community but also for society itself. What factors have created this innovation imperative for you?

A. Kao: I wrote Innovation Nation because I was personally more and more disturbed by what I perceived as taking our foot off the gas pedal in the U.S. with regard to innovation. I think right now there is kind of a dual narrative at work in the sense that my perception is that the U.S. is slowing down the pace of its game while many countries around the world are accelerating their progress toward the perceived grail and high ground of greater national innovation capacity.

Some of this has been inevitable. After World War II, America was pretty much the only game in town, and so it’s natural that talent, quality of life, scientific capacity and funding capacity have become more globally distributed. What is alarming to me, though, is that foreign talent has surpassed our national innovation capability, especially when it comes to education at all levels.

Investment in the future by both U.S. companies and our government is, to put it kindly, not as robust as it has been historically for us. From my perspective, a global innovation economy is emerging, where flows of talent ideas and capital between countries, regions and from city to city, are going to become decisive factors. In the U.S., we have had the luxury of perhaps not having to pay as much attention to the transformation of these kinds of global dynamics. I’m convinced those days are over. My mission these days is to take the optics around innovation and raise them to a higher, more focused level. Beyond what an enterprise needs to do, what do we as a global civil society, global civilization, need to do to innovate for our shared benefit? These are the questions that I’m thinking a lot about these days.

Q. KMWorld: Immediately, education comes to mind.

A. Kao: Right. To borrow Clay Christianson’s phrase, education contains an "innovator’s dilemma" these days. More schools and more homework and more teachers aren’t necessarily going to change the trajectory of an education enterprise. Just to take half a step back, we are a country that probably spends more per student than any public education system in the world, yet our relatively poor performance, especially in areas of science and math, are quite well known.

We are somewhere south of 24th in the world for math and literacy, which is dismal [performance]. We need to think about how to transform education and the education process itself. There are very big conceptual issues that have to do with what the role of educational institutions should be in terms of providing access to the digital domain in a world where kids arguably get more digital capability and experience outside a school than inside a school. So, if you have access to search technology, to Web 2.0 applications and communities of practice at home, how does that affect the in-school, K to 12 experience?

I also think there is a values question. There seems to be an ever-waning interest in science and math and an ever-waning interest in school. The graduation rates for high-school-age students in America are shocking. Barely two-thirds of students in the United States finish high school.

It’s a ticking bomb in the sense that if you leave school before you get a high school diploma, you are marginally employable. Your opportunities of getting back on some kind of career track are diminished. We still have 37 of 50 best universities in the world. We have lots of smart people. We are a big society, so our share of the bell curve is big—or, at least, it translates into a big number. But what I’m afraid of is that we will wind up seeing through an innovation lens as a society where there is going to be a top end of well-educated people with lots of opportunities and then there is going to be almost like this new kind of lump in the proletariat of people who are poorly educated, are marginally employable and where the mechanisms for retraining are not terribly evident.

We need to have a way of employing fully the population base—engaging them, giving them the relevant skills to do extraordinary things. The innovations of yesterday, today and tomorrow are not necessarily super labor-intensive, and there are several reasons for that. One of them is that the crème de la crème are driving innovation forward. There are not a lot of people, for example, who are experts in quantitative biology, but you don’t need a lot of them to create an industry. The other point is that America has very smoothly adapted to the notion of outsourcing elements of the innovation value chain.

It’s very common now to see ventures that will have a management team in the U.S. but will outsource the big chunks of the value chain. Let’s say you’re in the pharmaceutical development business. You’ll outsource to Vietnam or India and have a whole bunch of low-paid workers who at the same time can focus on the needed path and who have fewer regulatory barriers, and where there’s less friction and they cando a better job.

So, there is a question, which is really a social policy question, of how to make the innovation economy acceptable to all—equal access to opportunities. Obviously that starts with education. Education is what puts everyone at the same starting line. And then people will have a lot more choices about how to participate in this innovation economy. And maybe will be prepared with the minimum requirements for success. You know without that, the stage is set for being a new kind of two-class society, one that I don’t think we would find particularly attractive.

Q. KMWorld: Can you cite some examples of organizations that have demonstrated that innovation is crucial to a culture of an enterprise, part of its DNA?

A. Kao: Some of the companies in high-tech, such as Google and Apple, clearly have well-defined cultures that create a certain fanaticism and focus around innovation. Or an enterprise like Procter & Gamble, where the CEO evangelizes about innovation. These, and plenty others, have been very specific about how they want innovation to be something that they in-source from the outside world just as much as they do internally—they want the whole innovation culture and well ingrained.

Look at companies in the logistics business, such as UPS, and retail—Target—for examples. These are companies that have been able to take an original business concept and build on it, thereby transforming the enterprise by adding innovation to their business process as a fundamental part of their culture.

Q. KMWorld: You taught at Harvard for many years. How do you go about trying to encourage people to find their individual creativity and to develop their penchant for innovation?

A. Kao: Those are two separate questions; one is the level of developing individual creativity and the other kind of looking at innovation processes that may be resident in a team or an organization. The approach I take is very much one of making the assumption upfront that these are clinical, not theoretical, disciplines. But we’re never going to have a three-ring binder in which you can have all the principles and then simply deduce what you have to do in a particular situation. It’s about people and interactions and culture, as well as human-centered processes that are somewhat ethereal and complex.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Online Video Ad Spending Growth

AUGUST 14, 2008

Get ready for a stream of ad dollars.

eMarketer predicts online video ad spending in the US will reach $505 million this year and keep climbing through at least 2013. Over the next five years, growth will peak in 2012 at 78.9% above the 2011 spending level—reaching $3.4 billion.

The rapid growth means that advertisers will spend more than 10 times as much on online video in 2013 as they will this year.

If the saying "advertisers follow eyeballs" is still true for one medium, it is online video. More than one-half of the US population now watches online video, and eMarketer predicts there will be 190 million online video viewers in the US in 2012. At that point nearly nine out of 10 Internet users will be watching online video.

"However, even if online video advertisers are following eyeballs, they are far more tentative than the audience itself," said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer. "Figuring out the best types of video content to attach their ads to is one of the big questions. Is it short-form video or longer pieces? Is it professionally created video, or can user-generated video ever become a safe harbor for large numbers of brand marketers?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Online Ad Spending Update

AUGUST 13, 2008

Continued double-digit growth

eMarketer predicts that advertisers in the US will spend $24.9 billion online this year. That estimate is slightly lower than the one eMarketer released in March 2008, which said that US online advertising spending would reach $25.9 billion in 2008.

The lowered estimate still represents an increase of 17.4% over 2007.

"Even as the potent mix of a misfiring economy and consumers' changing media habits shave advertising dollars from traditional venues, such as newspapers and television, Internet ad spending will continue to grow rapidly," said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer.

Increased digital ad spending is coming out of traditional media budgets.

Although TV ad spending is set to increase by 7.1% in 2008 to $72.6 billion, eMarketer predicts such spending will actually shrink in 2009 by 2.6% before resuming 1% to 2% growth in 2010 and 1011.

Newspapers are taking an even harder hit. Borrell Associates predicted in March 2008 that newspaper ad spending in the US would fall from $50.8 billion in 2007 to $45 billion in 2012.

China on track to become world’s No. 2 ad market in 2010

Ad spending in China is expected to grow more than 20% this year and almost 20% in 2009 triggered not only by Olympic-related expenditures but also growing consumer power and urbanization, according to a new study from GroupM.

The report, “This Year, Next Year: China” is part of GroupM's media and marketing forecasting series drawn from data supplied by holding company WPP's worldwide resources in advertising, public relations, market research, and specialist communications. It includes forecasts for advertising spending in all major media.

“We’re confident of strong media investment growth extending to 2009 as demand in China becomes an increasingly important source of growth for global marketers as well as Chinese companies focusing on brand-building,” said GroupM Futures Director Adam Smith, who oversees all “This Year, Next Year” reports. “Growth in 2007 was relatively restrained, but we predict many marketers are conserving funds for the anticipated Olympic bonanza this year.”

The report said the Beijing Olympics will play a key role in accelerating media investment growth 22% to $35 billion, an increase from 2007 but below the explosive 29% annual compound average of 2001-2007. The report also forecast a 19.5% hike in spending to $42 billion for 2009.

In global terms, Smith pointed out that China will supply 23% of an anticipated 5.8% growth in global ad spending in 2008 and 30% of an expected 4.5% global growth in 2009.

The report pointed out that last year China overtook Germany to become the world’s third-largest ad market behind the U.S. and Japan. It is expected to fall within 10% of Japan in 2009, which, with Japan now in or near recession, should be an easy gap for China to close in 2010.

The report identified television and the internet as the primary engines of ad growth in China, especially this year with the Olympics generating an estimated $400 million in spending on CCTV, China’s national television network and the exclusive Olympics broadcaster. The figure represents six% of all new media investment in the nation in 2008.

The internet is expected to command 7.3% of ad investment in 2008, rising to 8.5% next year, the report said, noting that it is China’s fastest-growing medium and is on track to become the second-largest advertising medium after TV within a few years.

“China has the world’s largest internet community with more than 250 million users,” said Smith. “That’s an increase of more than 90 million from June of last year, representing a year-to-year growth of more than 55%.”
The report also revealed the following:

Rising incomes and consumer price inflation will fuel consumer expenditures, translating into increased sales for marketers. Per capita disposable income in China grew 120% in urban areas between 2000-2007, from $816 to $1812 currently. Retail sales tripled (at current prices) between 2000 and 2007, a development that contributed significantly to the report’s growth forecast.

Beyond 2008, retail distribution will extend to all 600 smaller cities throughout China as marketers will spend more money developing new consumers to balance with more developed markets like Shanghai and Beijing.
Online gaming is coming to play a vital role in internet advertising in China. In 2007, 120 million online gamers resulted in a huge growth in embedded advertising in online games. E-commerce also is growing despite low credit card penetration, with 46 million consumers shopping online in 2007. By 2010, an estimated 100 million-plus Chinese consumers are expected to shop online.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Publicis Snaps Performics Out of Google's Jaws

Slight change of nationality

Parisian firm Publicis Groupe has purchased Performics Search Marketing, a division of DoubleClick that Google has been planning to sell.

Performics Search Marketing will be incorporated into Publicis' VivaKi Nerve Center, headed by Curt Hecht, reports MediaPost.

Performics launched in 1998 and is based in Chicago. When its merger with DoubleClick was formalized in March, it promptly announced plans to sell Performics Search Marketing, which specializes in search engine optimization (helping companies improve their organic rankings on search engines, particularly Google's) — a clear conflict of interest for the search giant, which keeps its search algorithm close to the vest.

Google opted to maintain ownership of the Performics Affiliate Network, which was quietly rebranded as the Google Affiliate Network in July.

The sale is expected to finalize in Q3. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Rumor is 250 to 500 million is the price (Trip)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Economy Gives Web Coupons a Boost

AUGUST 5, 2008

Users willing to trade e-mail addresses for $2

The Internet is now the leading source of coupons for printable coupon users in the US, according to newly released data from a Simmons Market Research Bureau study sponsored by Coupons, Inc.

Nearly eight out of 10 printable coupon users said the Internet was one of the main places they went for coupons, while only 73.5% named newspapers as a top source. "Printable coupons" are just that: online coupons that may be printed out and redeemed in-store, as opposed to coupon codes intended for online use.

Among all consumers—not just printable coupon users—the Sunday newspaper is still the top coupon source, according to a July 2008 survey by Scarborough Research. The company said 53% of households usually found their coupons there, while 11% normally went to the Internet.

Coupons are a strong incentive, according to the Coupons, Inc. study. Nearly two-thirds of printable coupon users said they would disclose their e-mail address for a coupon worth $1, and more than three-quarters said they would give their e-mail address for a $2 coupon.

Consumers may be using coupons in part to maintain their brand preferences during the economic slowdown. More than six out of 10 coupon searches in June 2008 were for specific brands, according to Hitwise data.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Survey: Online Coupon Usage Up 39% Since 2005

by Karlene Lukovitz, Thursday, Jul 31, 2008 7:00 AM ET

The number of American adults using online coupons rose by 39% to 36 million between 2005 and 2008, according to a new survey conducted by Simmons/Experian Research and Coupons, Inc.

Online users account for nearly one-quarter (24%) of the total 148 million consumers who use coupons, compared to 22% market penetration as of last year.

Meanwhile, newspaper coupon users declined from 96 million in 2005 to 92 million last year.

Overall coupon usage has declined by 1 million since 2005, the survey found.

The shift toward greater online coupon usage is not surprising--given that online penetration among the U.S. adult population jumped from 46% in 2000 to 71% last year, while newspaper penetration declined from 65% to 55%, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Newspaper Association of America.

Demographically, 29% of online coupon users and 23% of newspaper coupon users are under age 35. (Nearly half of online coupon users are between the ages of 22 and 44.) More online users have household incomes over $60,000 (61%, versus 57% of newspaper coupon users). In addition, 36% of online users, versus 29% of newspaper users, have children under age 18.

Other findings:

* 88% of coupon users overall say that they use coupons to save money on the brands they usually buy, 47% say they use them to "stock up" on brands they usually buy, 47% use them to try new products, 41% use them to try a brand that's "usually too expensive" for them, and 29% use them to buy more of a product than they would normally buy.

* Most users find coupons in multiple channels: 79% on the Net, 74% in newspapers, 68% store coupons, 66% instant redeemable, 64% free-standing inserts, 61% store circulars, 60% on-pack, 51% electronic checkout, and 48% direct mail, with descending percentages for sources such as in-pack, shelf dispensers, magazines and handouts.

* 43% access printable online coupons at general savings (coupon-oriented) sites, 32% on manufacturers' promotional sites, 31% through manufacturers' brand sites, and 31% through retailer sites.

* Half (51%) of online coupon users go to a manufacturer's or retailer site or subscribe to a company's enewsletter in order to find coupons, while 46% do so to find deals and promotions. About 27% are looking for recipes, 23% are seeking information about product features/benefits, 21% are looking for new ideas, 14% want product nutritional or health information, and 7% do so for "fun" or to play an online game.

* Nearly three-quarters (74%) of online coupon users say they use coupons for frozen foods. Other most-used coupon categories include refrigerated foods (71%), dry grocery (67%), household goods (65%), personal care (58%), beverages (57%), healthcare products (54%), non-fast food restaurants (49%), and fast-food restaurants (47%).

* Even in the categories where online coupons are most heavily used, significant numbers of consumers who do not currently use coupons in these categories indicate that they would like to do so. "Enormous couponing upside still exists for most product categories," note the researchers.

* More than 80% of online coupon users research products or services online before making an offline purchase. Most (59%) go directly to a manufacturer's site, and 54% use a search engine to go to a manufacturer's site.

* 60% of online coupon users consider the Net a "very" or "extremely" important source for finding product information, and 53% consider it very or extremely important for shopping for non-food items.

* 58% of online coupon users agree that products and manufacturers that offer online coupons are more likely to come up with products and services that they will use and enjoy, and about the same number believe that such companies "care about keeping them as customers."

* 77% say that the value of a coupon affects their willingness to provide personal information. More than 70% say they would provide their email addresses and first and last names, and answer survey questions, in return for a $2 coupon.

* Seventy-three percent say they are more likely to open an email if a coupon is offered, and 64% are more likely to click on an ad banner or search listing if they know that a coupon is offered.

The study, the "2008 Printable Coupon Consumer Pulse," was conducted in March and based on compiled national consumer research from Simmons and a custom survey of more than 2,000 printable coupon users. Coupons, Inc. owns the Coupons.com printable coupons site. The full report is downloadable at couponsinc.com.