Audit Bureau Softens Circulation Rules

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The Audit Bureau of Circulations has changed the rules for what constitutes paid circulation in a way that is favorable to magazine and newspaper marketers.


The changes, which were finalized July 14, include the abolition of the "50 percent" rule. This rule held that no copy sold at less than half the basic price could be counted as paid circulation.


Copies now can be sold at any price as paid circulation, but publishers must make greater disclosures of how much money is being charged for subscriptions. This information should permit advertisers to measure reader interest levels in a magazine.


In addition, magazine publishers will now be able to try promotional tactics such as giving away subscriptions that are packaged with events tickets or club memberships.


The new guidelines should also affect newspaper subscription numbers, as the Audit Bureau ruled that paid electronic copies -- whether sent by e-mail, Web or CD-ROM -- can be counted as part of circulation.


The formats will have to conform to the same rules as print versions to be counted as paid circulation. For instance, newspapers must be sold for at least 25 percent of the basic price.


Electronic editions will need to be clearly identified as a version of the main paper, but the editorial and advertising can vary, just as they often do in regional editions of newspapers.


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