The cliché: Business reporters rather gleefully reported news that Groupon plans to value itself at about $12 billion before it's initial public offering. The site, which offers subscribers daily deals and discounts, has in the past been valued closer to $20 billion, and so, many saw opportunity for an easy quip. As The Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal blog declared in its headline, "The Latest Daily Deal: Groupon's Valuation."
Where it's from: The joke started quite awhile back and innocently enough. In the vernacular of IPOs, a "discount" is an often-used term for the common practice of offering shares slightly below their assumed real value, so a Wall Street Journal headline back in January about Groupon's delayed IPO, "Groupon Risks a Discount by Waiting," was a gentle, possibly even unintentional wordplay. As more bad news lowered expectations about the company's value, that wordplay grew brazen. Rumors circulated about a sharply lowered IPO at the beginning of October, and a Market Watch headline read, "Groupon's deal of the day: its own IPO." A day later, Business Insider's headline read "Groupon offering a Groupon on itself?" And today, with the actual news of Groupon's own drastically lowered valuation, the jokes just keep on coming. "Deal of the Day: Groupon Now Only Worth $12 Billion" reads Ryan Tate's headline at Gawker. "It's a discount Groupon's fans would love: Groupon's IPO, up to 50% off," says the Wall Street Journal's Shira Ovide.
Why it's catching on: Journalists love to point out the irony of Groupon's own self-discounting because, as nearly every outlet has pointed out by now, the site's deals may not bring much benefit to the businesses that offer them. Many small businesses complain they make almost no money on a sale from a Groupon customer, fail to recruit very many returning visitors to their business, and often can't handle the increased capacity. So, if Groupon is discounting other companies into oblivion, why not poke a little fun at them?
Why else? Tech writer Dan Frommer (whom Cliché Watch thanks for pointing today's item out) has a simpler theory. As he tweeted this morning, "If you are still making 'half-off Groupon!' jokes about Groupon's valuation, you need a new writer."