Are coupon sites the new Crocs?

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Within the past day The New York Times and Microsoft's search engine Bing have both made public their intents to enter on the coupon business. A search engine joining Groupon's game isn't so odd (Google's doing it too), but a newspaper? Is this a pole vault over the shark? Maybe not.

All Things Digital's Peter Kafka reported yesterday that the newspaper company will launch TimesLimited later this month. According to the TimesLimited website, users who opt-in will receive e-mails with “lifestyle, travel, food and live entertainment” offers from New York Times advertisers. Surprising as I found it, it's not a bad move. It allows the paper to cash in on its active user base and could also assuage any worried advertisers who may be questioning the value of their print ads.

Piggybacking on the Times' announcement comes Bing, which today introduced Bing deals in partnership with deal aggregator The Dealmap. Instead of creating its own deals site, however, Bing's gone the search engine route by aggregating deals from coupon sites like Groupon and LivingSocial and enabling users to access those coupons via their desktop or mobile phone. Not as surprising as TimesLimited, but still smart. At this point if Google's doing something, Bing might as well try to match them because sometimes they might even outdo them (see: Farecast.com).

The New York Times and Bing each launching coupon sites makes sense. Whether these ventures make cents is another matter. If they do, don't be surprised if Tim's Trades or Peterson Promotions launches soon thereafter.

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