4 Reasons Your Newspaper May Have Different Coupons Than Your Neighbor

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Coupons are a marketing tool that companies use to advertise and promote their products with hopes of increasing product sales and enticing new customers. It is frustrating though, when we hear of others getting a coupon we didn’t and we can’t figure out why.

Next time that happens to you, consider these four potential reasons.

Reason #1: Geography

Advertisers select the geographic area they would like to reach with their advertisement (or in this case, with their coupons). Geo-targeting for advertising and coupon distribution happens at a local level and on a national scale.

Locally, people receiving the same newspaper, but living across town from each other, could receive different advertisements and coupons within their paper. Advertisers can select their geographic distribution by micro-region, like zip code.

Nationally, the same principle holds true, but it’s more dramatic. Manufacturers design their coupon campaigns to entice consumers in different regions with different shopping habits to purchase their product. Regions where  a company would like to increase sales and bring in more new customers will receive higher-value coupons than areas where sales are naturally high.

Reason #2: Brand of Newspaper

A joy of living in the Twin Cities is that, frankly, we have two cities. That also means we have two newspapers, two Sunday editions and two different sets of coupons. Advertisers select where they want to spend their precious advertising dollars, and they usually opt for the paper with the larger circulation. As a consumer that means the larger of the two Sunday editions will likely contain more and higher-value coupons than its lesser-read counterpart.

Reason #3: Home Delivery vs Newsstand Papers

Coupon-loving folks often pick up extra copies of the Sunday paper. The easiest way to do it is stop into a gas station or grocery store and grab a few from the newsstand. Many of us have learned though, that newsstand papers may not contain all the coupon inserts that come in the home-delivered version. Unfortunately, you cannot assume that it was a mistake.

Advertisers buy space within XXX number of copies of the newspaper. Their first priority is the home delivered paper, which means you are sure to get the most coupons and advertisements when you have the Sunday paper delivered to your door. After home-delivered papers receive their inserts, the advertiser might have budget left for YYY number of copies to be included in newsstand copies, but YYY number of copies may not be enough for every newsstand issue.

With too few of these “extra” inserts/advertisements, it is common that some newsstand papers receive certain advertisements and coupon inserts while others don’t. Complicating this further is the reality that newsstand papers are not delivered to their locations in a consistent, predictable pattern. That means papers at gas stations next to each other might have different inserts one week and the same set the following week. In plain speak, we could say that there isn’t a rhyme or reason to which newsstand location gets which copies.

Reason #4: A and B Versions

Most surprising to me, is the reality that an advertiser or manufacturer may actually want different folks within the same geography to receive different coupons. Advertisers can requests to print both an A version and B version of their circular with the instructions to insert those into papers in a certain pattern, for instance every XXX number get version A and everyone else gets version B. Truly, it is a type of market research, where the advertiser wants to know which version generates more desirable results.

In conclusion, it is amazing to realize that the advertising happening around us is not nearly as haphazard as it seems. Companies are intentional to reach us with their well-crafted messages and provide us the coupons they think we need to purchase their products.

Your turn: What did you find most surprising from this article?

**Information for this article came from two industry insiders that have asked to be kept anonymous. One has years of experience in the newspaper industry and the other is a high-ranking member of the coupon strategy team for a large consumer packaged goods company (think Kimberly Clark, Procter & Gamble, General Mills or the like). They shared tricks of the trade with me that they have learned through their years of experience.


  1. says

    That's interesting. In Indianapolis, with only one major paper, I haven't noticed any differences in coupons in my area. I wasn't even aware other cities were experiences differences within a city. Nice to know.

  2. says

    Thanks for this post! I had thought I was really unobservant that I couldn't find some of the coupons you have mentioned in your lists, even though I receive the Sunday Star Tribune via home delivery. I guess there have been a few coupons my zip code doesn't get. The one example I can think of right off the top of my head is the Marcal paper product coupons. I have yet to ever see one of those in my South Minneapolis-delivered Star Trib.

  3. Vicky says

    Thank you for the excellent and in-depth explanation! I have been buying the Saturday "early" Sunday paper and sometimes get two inserts in one paper and only one in another paper (purchased at the same gas station at the same time). I am glad to know that it's possible I didn't miss one and throw it away (although that is always a possibility too – LOL).

  4. Anne says

    Thank you Carrie, I found that very insightful, We live in Brainerd but are originally from the cities. I like reading the Pioneer Press. The local area stores won't accept the coupons because of the different values. The advertisement are totally different as well. I've bought a paper in the cities on our way home and have taken the coupons to the stores and they don't accept them.

  5. Laura Wales says

    Very interesting! I had no idea that they sometimes have an A and B version, but I can see the reasoning behind it. I sometimes get coupon inserts from my mom (she lives in western WI) that have really great coupons that we don't get here, so that's nice.

  6. Jo says

    Yes Carrie – I have noticed this for a long time. My friends get some coupons with 50 cents off and mine say $1 or vice versa for the same item. We usually compare and if mine are better we buy more papers in my area (if finacially feasible) or their area. This happens even in the metro area as close as Bloomington/EP differences.

  7. says

    Thanks Carrie – We have this issue in Boston. The Boston Herald is cheaper $2, but has different inserts AND never P&G. the Boston Globe is $3.50 – YES IT IS $3.50 for 1 paper, but has more of the coupons. Makes organizing a pain since I usually get both kinds from friends and neighbors. Thanks for the reasons, I had been meaning to do a post – I will link you!! Thanks again.

  8. mamamia says

    Kristen, I was missing the marcal napkin coupon too til I noticed that it says Small Steps on it. It says free roll or $1.00 off and show napkins in the picture along with TP, and paper towels . HTH

  9. cashbaq kid says

    Most surprising about this article: the lack of attribution for the information. I'm not questioning the validity of the information, but I have no idea what the sourcing is. Did it come from a spokesperson at the Star Tribune? A spokesperson from Red Plum. Old Man Johnson down the street, who use to deliver the paper for 40 years? An internet site such as A Full Cup? This website may not be a news organization, but some idea about where the information was obtained (and I'm guessing more than one source) would be helpful.

  10. Mary says

    While no hard and fast sources have been cited in this posting by Carrie, there is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence to support what she has written. My mother lives two miles away in what could be called a "geographically undesirable" zip code in St. Paul and she gets many fewer coupons than I do. I subscribe to the PP, but often pick up the Strib and can vouch that the Strib has more coupons and sometimes have a higher value.

  11. cashbaq kid says

    Plenty of anecdotal evidence, but no evidence that anecdotes are the source of this information. All the anecdotal evidence in your world doesn't change the fact that the sourcing for this article is absent.

    • says

      Funny you mention sources as I had a statement in my final draft that talked about my sources, but I took it out. Guess I should have left it in, huh? The information you read came from two sources that asked for anonymity. One is a newspaper industry insider and the other has a high ranking position within the coupon strategy team of a large consumer packaged goods company (think Kimberly Clark, General Mills, Procter & Gamble or the like). All that to say, no this isn't anecdote, but "tricks of the trade" so to speak that folks who work with newspapers and coupons know.

      • Sam says

        I have worked in newspaper advertising for years (since high school) and, although I was not your source, I can say as an industry insider that this article is correct about the many reasons you don’t get the same coupons in one individual paper as you would in another. I would also include another reason: that sometimes the insertion machines screw up and inserts multiple flyers or none at all in a particular paper. Companies try to prevent this, but it happens.

  12. says

    Thanks for the great info. We also have a huge disparity in the Cleveland/Akron markets. Although we are not considered twin cities, we are about 30 miles apart. Akron is a smaller market though, and we often miss out on some great coupons because of it. I end up buying both papers. We also have smaller markets here too that get even less. Canton is 30 miles south of Akron, and I would imagine their coupons differ from both Cleveland and Akron, even though the entire area is considered a "region" (NE Ohio). It is very interesting how they figure out where to put their dollars. I notice that Akron never gets Garnier coupons (but Cleveland does) for example, and we missed out on the recent Kelloggs coupons as well (both Cleveland and Akron). So go figure . . .

  13. Cath says

    I am surprised that the sourcing is an issue for anyone, because it seems like incredibly elementary information to me. Then again, I worked for a coupon co for years…it starts with a "C" and ends with an "atalina." ;)

    Carrie is right though- everything is targeted extremely carefully. CPG companies aren't stupid- they put their dollars where they will make the most impact.

  14. cashbaq kid says

    Surprised somebody would like to know where the source of information comes from? Really? I choose not to blindly accept everything I read as fact. And perhaps it's an issue because I'd like to read more on the topic, and if one of the sources was another website rather than anonymous, I'd go read more about it. I am surprised somebody wanting to obtain more information is a surprise for anyone, no matter how elementary the information seems to a coupon company employee.

  15. Iona C. says


    My dad usually goes to the local 7-Eleven to buy the SF Chronicle on Sundays and there are NEVER any coupon inserts. I found that so frustrating that last Sunday I decided to just buy the paper from my local CVS which had the Smart Source, Red Plum, AND P&G inserts.

    Reason #3 seems to explain the different priority levels for each place.

  16. Sheila says

    I was with you on the whole, "I wanna know where the information comes from" until you started getting a little bit of a snarky tone about the whole thing.

    This is a great site and until now, the posts I've read have all been very friendly and helpful. I hope that it will be kept that way!

  17. Jean N says

    Hello! Just thought I would put a reminder out there that the use of this site is free. We don't have to all agree with everything or accept everything Carrie says, but at the very least, be respectful. Carrie is trying to help us, and has helped my family tremendously. If you don't like something that is posted, then you could disregard it or at the very least present your question in a respectful manner. There is also a link provided which can be used to contact Carrie directly.

  18. Mary says

    Last week I went to the Dollar Store in Coon Rapids, MN and Andover, MN and they had no Sunday papers. (Early or Sunday) The rack was even gone. Coon Rapids had no explanation. Andover stated that they would no longer be selling papers period. Has anyone else ran into this at the Dollar Store?

  19. Julie W says

    HI Mary,

    Yes, there were comments on another thread somewhere last week where a lot of people mentioned their dollar stores are no longer carrying the Sunday newspaper. Bummer!

    Julie W

  20. Mary says

    I subscribe to two papers in SE WI- Milwaukee Journal and Racine Times. I receive same coupons in both typically but some are arranged differently (perhaps one coupon will be page 1 in one issue and then page 10 in the other). After subscribing to both papers for 6 months I have not noticed a coupon in one but not the other (unles they miss my coupons).

    Keep up the GREAT work Carrie…I too have been learning alot from your site!

  21. Kelly K says

    About a year ago, our newspaper (Dayton Daily News) started delivering an ad packet to our house on Saturday or Monday. (We don't subscribe.) It contains many of the weekly ads that are in the Sunday paper, like Walgreens and Michaels, , and usually has the SmartSource coupons. I'm curious what I would be getting if I were a subscriber. I may bite the bullet and resubscribe-part of the reason we quit was that we read the articles online and didn't want the waste of the paper.

    This was an interesting article.

  22. Julie says

    Thank you for this information. I live just outside the Phila Inquirer circulation area. I used to purchase copies of that paper at convenience stores until Red Plum stopped their inserts in the Inquirer. My local paper is based in a much smaller market and never did get all the scheduled coupons on any given weekend. I noticed just this past weekend, that I had to visit three locations in order to find a local paper that all the inserts my home-delivered one did.

  23. says

    Wow! Thanks for such a great explanation. Now I have a couple of ideas why I don't get the same awesome coupons that 'everyone else' is always talking about!

  24. Allison says

    You are so correct about this. Advertsiers are very specific about how they want to spend their advertising dollars. I worked for a major retailer for years and depending on the sale event our store was allocated a certain number of newspaper inserts, which were inserted into specific zip codes (and sometimes store radius) where our best charge card customers resided. Only our "Biggest Sale" ads went to all zip codes and newspaper subscribers.

    We did our home mailers the same way. Most of the mailers were sent to "new credit card customers" and customers that had spent the highest dollar amounts in recent months. There are very few "Home Mailers" sent to "All" addresses or even "All" credit card customers.

  25. GaelicWench/Jo says

    This doesn't come as a surprise, given that, if marketing strategies covering every aspect of consumers' shopping habits, are going to be addressed.

    My biggest grouse is having to do with a recent move from IL, nearby St. Louis, to NW PA and finding that none of the area papers, including down in Pittsburgh 2 hours away, doesn't include the occasional P&G coupons. The only way I can get them is by downloading them onto my store card; unfortunately, the store (Giant Eagle) isn't listed on the P&G website. Personally, I like this feature, and I am sure that over time, it will become more and more available.

  26. says

    Hey, GaelicWench/Jo!

    My mom lives near Greensburgh and has a subscription to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and she gets the P&G inserts all the time (and is nice enough to send me copies :). It might be one of those things where the newstand copies of the paper don't get the same treatment as the subscription papers do. Just an FYI there.

    And seriously, you want no coupons, move to Alaska (ANYWHERE in Alaska). We usually get between five and eight coupons (if lucky) in our paper per week between the SS insert and the Redplum insert. Our only options up here, really, (since out of state papers will not include coupon inserts in them when you subscribe to the Sunday edition of their paper) is to hope that relatives down in the Lower 48 will mail coupons up to you or use coupon clipping services (depending on how your moral compass swings). Thank the good Lord for internet printable coupons, or we'd be truly and completely doomed.

  27. Sandra says

    I can see the why companies would "target" larger cities. We live in Wichita Falls, Tx. The paper is not worth getting. We go to the 7-ll store & get the Ft.Worth paper. Really good coupons. Sometimes, "extras" are slipped in. The price was $l.50 & recently went up to

    $2.00. Still a good value for 3-4 inserts.

  28. cathyp says

    I subscribe to both the PP and Star Trib in the Twin Cities- I specifically asked the sales rep when I purchased the PP if their coupons got betters (this was in August 2009). She told me they did– I can say from personal experience comparing both of these Sunday coupons side by side the Star Trib has more and better Sunday coupons– so if you stopped by a salesperson for the PP you can tell them there is a unhappy customer who bought both Sunday papers and it isn't true!

  29. Debbie says

    Hmm… I was missing a coupon insert this week. I shall have to see if traveling to the "nicer" parts of town will result in a more complete paper. I'm still debating the value of subscribing, though they have a nice deal going on right now here.

    Thanks for the explanation. :)

  30. Patty says

    I am looking for this past Sundays paper too. I thought I read a while ago that the Star Trib sells them during the week? Not sure does anyone have details? Thanks!!

  31. Cathy says

    Thank you, this is very interesting to know. I often don't get the coupons others are talking about. Sometimes, the Walgreens ad would say to look for a newspaper coupon for a particular item, but there is nothing there!

    Also, can anyone suggest the best zip code to use for online coupons? It seems that I'm missing out on some of those, too.

  32. Lisa says

    I've noticed many time Carrie that you commented that the "Twin Cities doesn't have this coupon" or "MN didn't receive this coupon" and I have the coupon out here in Blaine, MN. So I totally understand why they may have different coupons in different areas. What drive me crazy is that I can't buy the Saturday early edition and get ALL of the coupon inserts that are there on the Sunday paper, for the lower price. Or that I can go to CVS and don't get all the inserts of the other stores, ie Walgreens, in the paper. (I believe that CVS takes the ad out of the Sunday paper, don't think they are suppose to do that, but I believe they do.) Drives me crazy, so I have given up and go out early Sunday morning to get my additional papers along with my home delivery. Thanx, for confirming my thoughts on this subject.

  33. Lisa M. says

    I have found huge differences in the papers in my area. I am in Connecticut and there are 5 major newspapers that cover basically the whole state – which I am able to purchase any of them in my area. Each of these papers covers "large" city areas (the largest in CT). Before I purchase ANY of my papers each week I check through them to make sure that the inserts that are supposed to be there are there. I have found that 2/5 of these papers always have the correct inserts each week – though I still check (the employees at the Stop and Shops I frequent have gotten used to my "odd" behavior :). Luckily I am able to get all my inserts for $ 1.50 per paper, as I buy 6/week on a "slow" week and up to 12 when there are many inserts.

    I was surprised to read the comment above about not getting the inserts in the CVS papers. I happened to be there on a Sunday and to save me a trip I found they had one of the papers that had all the inserts and purchased them there. I didn't find that any of the inserts had been removed…Maybe it was an isolated incident?

  34. Jean Speer says

    I live in Florida and on Sunday I buy two Orlando Sentinal news papers it has more and larger amount coupons. I also buy one of my local papers for the news. It has fewer and smaller amount off coupons. I check the coupon list Taylortown to see how many inserts to expect and look in each paper I buy. I will still buy the local one even if there are no coupons. I will skip the Orlando ones, I just buy those for the better coupons.


  35. Linda P. says

    About a year ago my paper stopped carrying a lot of the coupons and usually only has Smart Source now. I tried signing up online several times to get Red Plum by mail but haven't received it. I'm bummed out because that is the main reason I buy the paper is for the coupons, and now I am only getting one insert. I get the Milwaukee Journal but was thinking of seeing if another paper might have more coupons for my area.

  36. Judy says

    I have had to return papers to a convenience store and to CVS on more than one occasion. The reason…NO COUPONS. I was told by the lady at the conventience store that people come in and take them and the lady at CVS said theirs are delivered before they open the store and people take them before they get into the store!!! That doesn't give "couponers" a good name. Has anyone else ever heard of such a thing?

  37. V says


    I finally took the time to read this information…very interesting. I love saving money; with that my couponing/savings has turned into a hobby for me to so I enjoying learning more of the tells and tweaking my savings even more.

    Here is my question:

    I live in rural southwest Minnesota, very close to South Dakota; so it is very sparsely populated compared to the Minneapolis area. When we purchase our Star Trib from our local store do you feel we are getting less coupons than if I would have it sent to my home? We have thought about doing that but now I wonder if because of my zip code they will pull ads and coupons anyway? What do you think? Also I know I wouldn’t get it until probably Tuesday but that is okay.

    Thanks Carrie~

  38. Paulette says

    very interesting! I was wondering why the Red plumb from the Sunday PP from the gas station was completly different from the RP in my home delivery STrib.

  39. Gina says

    In our military town. The newspaper intentionally limits the coupons we receive. Its a community that thrives on taking advantage of Soldiers in every sense. These are mom and pop places to big names like Walmart. Often time when I visit the local Walmart the food there is spoiled or near rotting. But if I simply travel one town over either side of me the business is cleaner, the people are nicer and the food is fresh. The town where I am I have repeatedly complained about the missing coupon inserts and they could care less. If you present a coupon of any nature in this military town Walmart they are so hostile with you. But I always carry the policy, write down the name of the cashier and CSM. I don't know how many times I have received gift cards. However, they never change.

    I have resorted to getting my coupons in other ways which angers even the cashiers because they often question me how I get such coupons after they are rude to me.

  40. Jenny says

    This article says it all, I live n Rochester, the post bulletin down here gets the red plum and smart source. When I buy the pioneer press it has the same coupons. However when I get the Star Trib I get almost double the amount of coupons. Now get this…my mom and dad live in Northfield, they get a Pioneer Press on Saturday with all the inserts and a Star Tribune with all the inserts. Only 40 minutes away and there is a huge amount of savings, if she wouldn't have given me her coupons one weekend I would have never known and that may have been better since the night I found out my husband heard me rattle on for 2 days about it.

  41. PJ says

    Very interesting and explains a few things. We can not subscribe to Sunday only in my area and I refuse to subscribe to the full week when I know we wont read half of them. That is a waste. So we buy from newspaper stands. One Sunday a few weeks ago, my husband and I both drove to church because he needed to go earlier than I wanted to. On the way home, as is our habit, we BOTH stopped and bought a paper. But we stopped at 2 different stores, not a mile apart and yet the inserts were different… Confusing and frustrating…

    Thanks for the info, thought I don't know what I can do about it.

  42. Michelle says

    I agree also – a simple "so where did you get the information" would have been better than being snippy about it.

  43. Jill Pearson says

    I’m trying to figure out were to get the $5/1 tena coupons. I got minneapolis paper and it didn’t have it. I wonder if St. paul has it.


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