Digital Editions—U.S. Newspapers

  1. Introduction
  2. Paid Circulation
  3. Verified Circulation

Introduction

Publishers may develop digital editions available on a variety of platforms to distribute their newspaper content. These digital editions may qualify for inclusion as circulation units on AAM documents.

This guide is designed to address the eligibility of a product as a digital edition and the qualification requirements for both paid and verified digital initiatives.

Click on a specific topic for details. If you are developing an initiative that is not addressed in this guide, please contact your Publisher Relations Manager.

Eligibility of Digital Products

Digital editions may be eligible for inclusion as circulation units on AAM documents if they are:

  • Consistent in character and editorially homogeneous with the print edition.
  • Compliant with AAM Rule C 2.4 Separate Editions.
  • Restricted-access (does not include public access websites).

Newspapers may utilize a variety of platforms to make their digital editions accessible to readers. Such platforms may include restricted-access websites, tablets, e-readers, smartphones, etc.

Replica and Non-Replica Defined

A replica digital edition has the following characteristics:

  • Consistent in editorial and advertising content with the print edition.
  • Layout is consistent in presentation with the print edition.
  • May exclude FSI advertising (free-standing inserts).
  • May include updated news content.
  • May include advertising additive to the print edition.

A non-replica digital edition has the following characteristics:

  • Consistent in character with the print edition.
  • Editorially homogeneous with the print edition.
  • Advertising content may differ.

If you want AAM to review your non-replica digital edition, please submit access information and a copy of the print edition to your Publisher Relations manager.

Paid Circulation

Stand-alone Sales

Paid circulation is defined as subscriptions and single issues sold at an amount of at least one cent, per year, net of considerations. See also AAM Rule C 1.1 Paid Circulation Defined.

For single issues, only current issues are eligible as paid (archived issues are excluded). See also AAM Rule C 5.12 Single Issue Sales of Back Copies.

Digital subscription offers without a definitive term (e.g. a mobile app costing a one-time fee of 99 cents for indefinite access) qualify as paid circulation for 30 days. For periods beyond 30 days, remaining service can be reported as verified subscriptions if support exists to confirm the consumer registered and activated and account, or downloaded the application, and accessed the digital edition at least once every six months.

Group subscriptions must comply with the above standards. See also AAM Rule C 3.4 Business/Traveler Copies.

Frequency Change/Upgrade

If a newspaper wants to use digital editions for frequency changes and qualify the circulation as paid, the following requirements apply:

  • The subscriber must opt-in to receiving the digital edition.
  • The subscriber must register and activate an account or download an application to gain access to the digital edition.
  • It must be clear which days of the week will be serviced with digital editions and claimed as paid circulation on ABC documents.
  • The digital access must not be presented or inferred as free, no additional cost, no extra cost or other synonymous language.

See also AAM Rule C 5.13 Subscription Offer Based on Acceptance Unless Declined.

Print and Digital Editions Sold Together

Overview

Newspapers may choose to sell print and digital editions together in the same consumer marketing effort. To qualify both the print and digital copies as paid circulation, the following requirements must be met:

  • Minimum price must be at least one cent per subscription, net of considerations. See AAM Rule C 1.1 Paid Circulation Defined.
  • None of the subscriptions may be presented to the consumer as free, no additional cost, no extra charge or other synonymous language.

In addition, to qualify the digital copies, the publisher has the choice of the following as outlined by AAM Rule C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions:

  • Present the consumer with incremental pricing
  • Present the consumer with a bundled package and base qualification on access, not pricing (at the time of audit, the auditor will confirm the access requirement was met).

REMINDER: Digital subscriptions without a definitive term (e.g. a mobile app costing a one-time fee of 99 cent for indefinite access) qualify as paid circulation for 30 days. For periods beyond 30 days, remaining service can be reported as verified subscriptions if support exists to confirm the consumer registered and activated an account or downloaded the application and accessed the digital edition at least once every six months.

Incremental Pricing

When print and digital subscriptions are sold together in the same consumer marketing effort, incremental pricing refers to the offering of each subscription independently for an additional cost.

Print and a Digital Subscription

The incremental pricing requirement, to qualify all copies as paid circulation, requires the following to occur:

  • A print-only option must be presented to the consumer.
  • The price to purchase the print and a digital subscription together must not infer either subscription is free and be at least five percent above the cost of the print-only option.
  • All purchase options must be presented with equal prominence.

Incremental Pricing Example - Acceptable:

Yes! I want one year of...

  • Friday-Sunday home delivery and 7-day online access for only $25 a month.
  • Friday-Sunday home delivery only for $23 a month.

Incremental Pricing Example – Not Acceptable:

  • Yes! I want one year of Friday-Sunday print delivery and 7-day online access for only $25 a month.*

*Print-only is available for $23 a month.

Print and Multiple Digital Subscriptions

The incremental pricing requirement, to qualify the print and digital copies as paid circulation, requires the following to occur:

  • A print-only option must be presented to the consumer.
  • Each digital subscription must be presented to the consumer independently for no less than five percent of the print-only option.
  • If a package is presented, the price must not infer any of the subscriptions are free and reflect at least a five percent incremental cost.
  • All purchase options must be presented with equal prominence.

Incremental Pricing Example - Acceptable:

Yes! I want one year at...

  • $100: 7-day Home delivery only
  • $25: 24/7 access to Anytown News online
  • $15: 24/7 access to Anytown News mobile app

Incremental Pricing Example - Acceptable:

Yes! I want one year at...

  • $130 all access package: 7-day home delivery, 24/7 access to Anytown News online and mobile app.
  • $100: 7-day Home delivery only
  • $25: 24/7 access to Anytown News online
  • $15: 24/7 access to Anytown News mobile app

For the Audit

For the subscriptions claimed as paid circulation, proof of subscriber payment must be available upon request. If incremental pricing was chosen to qualify the subscriptions as paid, the publisher must also retain the original subscriber order reflecting incremental pricing to the subscriber (direct mail piece, inbound or outbound telemarketing script, Internet order, etc.) and provide it to the AAM auditor upon request.

No Incremental Pricing (Access Requirement)

If a publisher chooses not to present incremental pricing, the auditor will confirm the subscriber’s access to the digital edition.

Print and a Digital Subscription

To meet the access requirement, the following must occur:

  • The consumer must register and activate an account or download the application to initiate the start of the subscription.
  • The digital edition must be accessed at least once every 30 days.

Print and Multiple Digital Subscriptions

To meet the access requirement, the following must occur:

  • The consumer must register and activate an account or download the application to initiate the start of the subscription.
  • The first digital edition must be accessed at least once every 30 days.
  • The second digital edition must be accessed at least once every week.
  • The third and subsequent digital editions must be accessed at least daily.

It is up to the publication to decide which digital subscription they will consider the "first," "second," and subsequent editions. It can vary by subscriber, by solicitation effort, by month, etc. If requested at the time of audit, a publisher must be able to communicate which digital editions are "first," "second," etc. at the subscriber level.

Multiple Digital Editions Sold Together

Overview

Newspapers may choose to sell print and digital editions together in the same consumer marketing effort. To qualify all the digital copies as paid circulation, the following requirements must be met:

  • Minimum price must be at least one cent per subscription, net of considerations. See AAM Rule C 1.1 Paid Circulation Defined.
  • None of the subscriptions may be presented or inferred as free, no additional cost, no extra charge or other synonymous language.

In addition, the publisher has the choice of the following as outlined by AAM Rule C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions:

  • Present the consumer with incremental pricing, or
  • Present the consumer with a bundled package and base qualification on access, not pricing (at the time of audit, the auditor will confirm the access requirement was met).

REMINDER: Digital subscriptions without a definitive term (e.g. a mobile app costing a one-time fee of 99 cent for indefinite access) qualify as paid circulation for 30 days. For periods beyond 30 days, remaining service can be reported as verified subscriptions if support exists to confirm the consumer registered and activated and account, or downloaded the application, and accessed the digital edition at least once every six months.

Incremental Pricing

When multiple digital subscriptions are sold together in the same consumer marketing effort, incremental pricing refers to the offering of each digital subscription independently for an additional cost.

The incremental pricing requirement, to qualify all of the digital copies as paid circulation, requires the following to occur:

  • Each digital subscription must be presented to the consumer independently.
  • If a package is presented, the price must not infer any of the subscriptions are free and reflect at least five percent incremental cost.
  • All purchase options must be presented with equal prominence.

Incremental Pricing Example - Acceptable:

Yes! I want one year at...

  • $89: 24/7 access to Anytown News online
  • $25: 24/7 access to Anytown News mobile app
  • $20: 24/7 access to Anytown News tablet app

Incremental Pricing Example - Acceptable:

Yes! I want one year at...

  • $124 complete digital package: 24/7 access to our online edition, our mobile app. and our tablet app.
  • $89: 24/7 access to Anytown News online
  • $25: 24/7 access to Anytown News mobile app
  • $20: 24/7 access to Anytown News tablet app

For the Audit

For the subscriptions claimed as paid circulation, proof of subscriber paymentmust be available upon request. If incremental pricing was chosen to qualify the subscriptions as paid, the publisher must also retain the original subscriber order reflecting incremental pricing to the subscriber (direct mail piece, inbound or outbound telemarketing script, Internet order, etc.) and provide it to the ABC auditor upon request.

No Incremental Pricing (Access Requirement)

If a publisher chooses not to present incremental pricing, the auditor will confirm the subscriber’s access to the digital editions. To meet the access requirement, the following must occur:

  • The consumer must register and activate an account or download the application to initiate the start of the subscription.
  • The first digital edition must be accessed at least once every 30 days.
  • The second digital edition must be accessed at least once every week.
  • The third and subsequent digital editions must be accessed at least daily.

It is up to the publication to decide which digital subscription they will consider the "first," "second," and subsequent editions. It can vary by subscriber, by solicitation effort, by month, etc. If requested at the time of audit, a publisher must be able to communicate which digital editions are "first," "second," etc. at the subscriber level.

Verified Circulation

Verified circulation represents newspapers available for individual consumers that are either non-paid or paid for by someone other than the individual.

AAM’s qualification review and audit processes won’t govern or consider any financial transactions related to verified distribution (invoices, payment, fundraising, rates charged, etc.).

Subscriptions

Verified subscriptions represent subscriptions of an eligible digital edition that are either non-paid or paid for by someone other than the recipient. See AAM rules C 3.3 Other Verified Distribution and C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions.

Digital circulation may qualify as verified subscriptions if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The recipient must register and activate an account, or download the application, to initiate the start of the subscription.
  2. The recipient accesses the digital edition at least once every 30 days. (Effective with Sept. 2012 publisher's statements)

Records must be available for the auditor to confirm the registration and activation, or download, and subsequent access. Failure to provide the necessary audit documents may cause the circulation to be excluded from AAM documents.

Digital copies made available for registered college students must qualify under the standards for University Copies.

Educational Copies

Verified educational copies represent copies (licenses) of an eligible digital edition that were requested by and distributed to accredited classroom settings for use by instructors as part of the curriculum. See AAM rules C 3.2 Educational Copies and C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions.

Digital circulation qualifies as educational copies if all of the following are met:

  • Teacher or school administrator requests access (via request for “licenses”).
  • Copies are used in an accredited classroom setting (toward a degree or diploma).
  • Affidavits are obtained at least annually (end of each school year) attesting to the following (See also Affidavit Examples):
    • Name and address of school
    • Statement to confirm the newspapers were ordered, received and used in the classroom as part of the curriculum
    • The quantity of licenses
    • Number of students in the classroom
    • Date(s) or date range copies were accessed
    • Name of teacher(s) who received the distribution
    • Printed name, title and phone number of the person signing the affidavit
    • Signature and date

Affidavits are required for all (100 percent) of the classrooms. Programs for which affidavits are not received are classified as unpaid on AAM documents.

Affidavits submitted electronically to the newspaper are acceptable (i.e., email or online). All the information noted above is required. Since a signature is not attainable electronically, the individual completing the form should include a statement confirming the information provided in the electronic affidavit is true and accurate. For example “I agree the above information is complete and accurate.” The auditor may directly contact the teacher or school official to confirm the information contained in the affidavit.

University Copies

Verified university copies represents copies of an eligible digital edition available to and accessed by registered college students. See Policy Relating to Serving NIE Copies to College Students.

Digital circulation qualifies as university copies if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. Digital edition is made available for registered college students.
  2. Registration and activation or downloading the digital edition initiates the start of the subscription.
  3. The quantity of copies claimed represents the number of students who actually accessed the digital edition each day. A unique identifier for the student must be available.

For university copies, records must be available to support unique student IDs and the number of students (unique IDs) who accessed the digital edition each day. Failure to provide the necessary audit documents may cause the circulation to be excluded from AAM documents.

Retail/Business

Verified retail/business circulation represents copies requested by businesses for reccurring distribution to its patrons. See AAM Rule C 3.3 Other Verified Distribution and C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions.

Digital editions provided to libraries for use by patrons are acceptable as digital, verified retail/business circulation. The number of licenses should reasonably reflect the number of computers the library makes available for patrons.

Digital access provided to venues other than libraries (such as hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, hotels, doctors’ offices, car dealerships, etc.) are not eligible for inclusion on AAM documents.

Employee Copies

Verified employee/independent contractor copies represents copies of an eligible digital edition that were served to employees and retired employees as a benefit of employment; and to independent contractors and correspondents as a benefit of their contract. See also AAM Rule C 3.1 Employee, Correspondent and Agent Copies and C 5.10 Subscriptions Involving Digital Editions.

Digital circulation qualifies as employee copies provided the digital editions are easily accessible to the recipients. Records must be maintained by the publication to confirm the active status of employment, retirement, contractor or correspondent.

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