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Val-Pak launches coupon site

Those thick coupon packs now come in both snail mail and email, as Val-Pak goes online.

Those thick coupon packs that you either leaf through to find the best bargains or throw out in disdain now come in both snail mail and email, as Val-Pak launches Val-Pak Coupons online.

Those who access the new Web site may miss out on the thrill of having coupons flutter out of the blue envelope onto the kitchen table, but they now will have the choice of searching for local coupons by topic, and can print out only those coupons they will use.

Todd Leiser, vice president of Internet technology services for Val-Pak parent company Cox Target Media, said his company has been testing Net coupons for the past two years and, but held off on launching the site until executives felt the Net had sufficiently matured into a mainstream medium.

A year or two ago, the Net was populated by its early adapters, largely males in the 18- to 24-year-old range. But now, Leiser pointed out, the Net is embraced by a wide range of people, many of whom are interested in more than just technology.

"One of the reasons that we're launching this week as opposed to a year or two or so ago is we knew people who would be most interested in our content were probably not on the Internet yet," Leiser said. "Our research showed that our demographic is 25- to 54-year-old women. That demographic is coming onto the Internet in increasing numbers now."

But Leiser said many younger people also can find attractive deals on the Val-Pak page, such as coupons for pizza delivery or contact lenses.

He pointed out also that the digital Val-Pak has been adapted from its brick-and-mortar incarnation. Whereas home delivery of coupons is extremely effective in the offline world, online companies with any Internet savvy avoid mass unsolicited commercial email, also known as spam.

"The only email people will get is opt-in," Leiser said, adding that Val-Pak is confident its free subscription service will be popular.

Marketers increasingly have turned toward opt-in lists in an effort to entice people into receiving email advertisements. Some companies offer giveaways in exchange for subscribing, while others offer incentives such as frequent flyer miles.

Like many of the Internet companies whose ranks it now is joining, Val-Pak is not yet making money directly from the Web. The business model that has made its offline operations a success, in which advertisers pay Val-Pak to design and print the coupons, insert them in envelopes, and mail them off, has not yet been translated into a viable online model.

"Right now we offer the Internet coupon for free as a value-added service," Leiser said. "Eventually charges will be added. That day will come when Internet coupons are being redeemed in enough of a critical mass that it's a [good] business decision."