Digital Issues

A guide to qualifying digital circulation.

 

A digital issue is an electronic magazine that maintains the same identity, name and logotype as the print edition. Available on various platforms, including online (restricted-access websites), e-readers, tablet apps, smartphone apps, digital issues are eligible for inclusion on AAM publisher’s statements and audit reports. For nonpaid bulk, unrestricted websites are also permitted.

The digital issue circulation is qualified and disclosed for AAM based on whether the recipient paid for the digital issue or received it for free.

If you intend to claim a digital issue on AAM documents, consider contacting us to review its compliance with AAM standards. A demo or live version of the digital issue and a copy of the same issue in print are necessary for this review.



Digital Issues Defined

A digital issue is eligible for inclusion in total circulation and, if applicable, rate base on AAM publisher’s statements and audit reports. To do so, the digital issue must meet the standards outlined below.

Publication Name

The digital issue must maintain the same identity, name and logotype as the print. Phrasing may be added to identify it as a digital issue.

Editorial

The digital issue must include all the same editorial content in the print. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Table of contents (page numbers may be eliminated)
  • Article titles (may be modified for expanded content and subheads may be excluded)
  • Complete articles
  • Quotes
  • Reviews

Additional or enhanced editorial content (updates, hyperlinks, audio, video, etc.) is also acceptable. However, the print issue’s original editorial text must be retained when content is added or enhancements are made.

The digital issue may reflect any corrections found after production of the print issue.

Photography and Graphics

All photography and graphics appearing in the print issue must be included in the digital issue. This includes all photo captions, legends and notations. The user may be presented with captions via roll overs, pop ups, etc.

Photos may be replaced in the digital issue due to copyright or royalty restrictions if the new photo is of the same subject in the same setting.

Advertising

Advertisers in the print issue must be given the opportunity to appear in the digital, with the exception of:

  • Fractional ads one-third of a page or smaller
  • Classified ads
  • House ads
  • Tactile enhancements (texture, glossy presentation, scent strips, etc.)

If print advertisers choose to appear in the digital issue, the content and message of the ad is at the discretion of the advertiser.

Additional or enhanced advertising beyond what is included in the print issue is acceptable.

Activity Pages

Activity pages include items such as word puzzles, number puzzles and quizzes.  Because print and digital issues each provide unique functionality, print issue activity pages are not required if they cannot function on the device.

Layout

The layout may be reformatted and reorganized to accommodate different devices, but the editorial, photography and advertising must still be presented in a manner consistent with the print issue.  

Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Advertising content must be interspersed with editorial content. It is not acceptable to separate advertising into a separate section.
  • Articles may be rearranged throughout the issue and consolidated onto one page if originally a multi-page article.

A digital issue not meeting the above criteria is still eligible for inclusion in AAM publisher's statements and audit reports, however, it is disclosed independently as digital nonreplica and excluded from total circulation and rate base data.

  • Digital nonreplica issues must maintain the same identity, name and logotype as the print issue. Phrasing added to identify it as a digital issue is acceptable.
  • The content focus must be consistent in nature with the print issue. For example, if the print magazine focuses on celebrities or fitness, then the digital issue should also focus primarily on celebrities or fitness.

 

Paid

AAM Rule F 1.1/F 101.1 Paid Circulation defines paid circulation as subscriptions or single issues paid for at an amount of one cent or more, net of considerations. See also back copies.

Individual Subscriptions and Single Copy

Digital-only subscriptions qualify as paid if the consumer purchases the digital subscription for at least one cent per year, net of considerations.

Digital single-issue sales qualify as paid if the consumer pays at least one cent, net of considerations for the single digital issue.

 

Please note: When a subscriber receives both print and digital issues of a magazine, only one circulation unit may be included on AAM documents (unduplicated). In the explanatory paragraph, the publisher may choose to disclose the total subscribers who receive both issues.

 

Each digital vendor may have varying data to provide to AAM, from subscriber-level detail to only summary sales or revenue reports. AAM teamed with the Magazine Directors' Advisory Committee (MDAC) and a publisher task force to help guide magazine publishers through the process of analyzing and translating vendor reports into digital circulation for your publisher's statement.

  • Reports available from tablet vendors (Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Texture and other digital vendors (Zinio) are maintained outside of publishers' fulfillment systems and thus may not provide all the details necessary for filing publisher's statements.
  • To provide industry-wide consistency, a how-to guide outlines methods to translate the information available to digital circulation. During the audit, AAM auditors will verify the data was claimed appropriately and in accordance with the acceptable methods described in the guide.

For the Audit

The publication must provide supporting documentation from the digital vendor to verify payment, and requests for each unique paid digital subscription. Please contact AAM to discuss documentation available for the audit of your paid digital subscriptions.

 

Paid Multi-Title Digital Subscriptions (F 18.3/F 118.3 Multi-Title Digital Program)

Digital unlimited access digital magazine program subscriptions (such as the Texture app) may qualify as paid subscriptions if the consumer paid at least one cent per year, net of considerations.  For AAM reporting, this distribution will be categorized under Paid Subscriptions-Multi-Title Digital Program. Also, the following key usage analytics will be required for AAM reporting:

  • Average number of total requests by paid subscribers to receive a digital issue
  • Average number of time issues were opened
  • Unique and total opens 

 

Note:  For US Periodicals only: 
Multi-Title Digital Programs will be required to use unique opens (a net figure) to report paid subscriptions on the front page of the AAM publisher’s statement.

Unique opens are defined as the number of readers who paid for the unlimited-access program, requested a particular magazine and then opened a specific issue.

 

For the Audit

The publisher is encouraged to discuss with their vendor whether individual title testing will be required and support records supplied directly to auditor from publisher or if AAM has completed a platform validation of the vendor.

 

Sponsored, Partnership, Association and Club Subscriptions

In the following situations, a digital issue is only eligible as paid if the consumer requests it and all other program qualifications are met:

 

Note for sponsored sales: In order for copies purchased by a third party (sponsored sales) to qualify as paid circulation, the publisher must provide proof that the issue was opened by the individual, in addition to all other program qualification requirements outlined here.

 

A request is defined as an affirmative action to accept the digital issue. The consumer must be clearly presented with the name of the magazine, term, delivery platform and action needed to accept the digital issue. The request must be dated and annually reconfirmed by the recipient.

Examples of acceptable request actions for a digital issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Direct mail
  • Telemarketing
  • Online by checking a dedicated box to request the magazine
  • Online by entering name and email address for the sole purpose of accepting the magazine

Examples of unacceptable actions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Pre-checked box
  • Submitting personal information without specifying the action is to accept the digital issue
  • Single action to accept multiple products or services that include the digital issue
  • Embed the request in terms and conditions

For the Audit

The publication must support the digital requests and all other program requirements. The following are options to consider for supporting the digital issue request:

  • For direct mail, retain a copy of the request either electronically or hard copy.
  • For telemarketing, retain a recording of the phone call.
  • For online efforts
    1. Double opt-in: After consumers opt in online, they receive an email asking to confirm the request, or activate the subscription, by clicking a link. This link goes to a landing page and captures all unique email addresses that land on it. Retention of the unique emails that clicked through the link are acceptable proof of the digital request.
    2. A third-party vendor, such as Trusted Forms, that captures consumer activity online. The captured screen shots by the credible vendor are acceptable proof of the digital request.
  • For sponsored sales, retain log files or other proof that the individual accessed each issue.

For subscriptions not supported by one of the above efforts, subscriber-level contact (sampling) is necessary to confirm the digital request. Please contact AAM to discuss documentation available to support your digital issue requests.

 

Verified Individually Requested

A digital issue requested by individuals (including free trial issues with 'til forbid subscriptions) is eligible for inclusion on AAM publisher’s statements and audit reports as verified circulation if the following requirements are met:

  • A request from the recipient for the digital issue.
  • At least two consecutive issues are served.

A request is defined as an affirmative action to accept the digital issue. The consumer must be clearly presented with the name of the magazine, term, delivery platform and action needed to accept the digital issue. The request must be dated and annually reconfirmed by the recipient.

Examples of acceptable request actions for a digital issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Download of an issue onto tablets, eReaders, smartphones or other mobile devices
  • Creation (registration) of an account
  • Online by checking a dedicated box to request the magazine
  • Online by entering a name and email address for the sole purpose of accepting the magazine

Examples of unacceptable actions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Pre-checked box
  • Completion of personal information without specifying the action is to accept the digital issue
  • Single action to accept multiple products or services that include the digital issue
  • Embed the request in terms and conditions
  • Download of app only (without downloading any issues)

For the Audit

The publication must support the digital request and consecutive issuance (minimum two consecutive issues). The following are options to consider to support the digital issue request:

  • For direct mail, retain a copy of the request either electronically or hard copy.
  • For telemarketing, retain a recording of the phone call.
  • For online efforts
    1. Double opt-in: After consumers opt in online, they receive an email asking to confirm the request or activate the subscription by clicking a link. This link goes to a landing page and captures all unique email addresses that land on it. Retention of the unique emails that clicked through the link are acceptable proof of the digital request.
    2. A third-party vendor, such as Trusted Forms, that captures consumer activity online. The captured screen shots by the credible vendor are acceptable proof of the digital request.

For subscriptions not supported by one of the above efforts, subscriber-level contact (sampling) is necessary to confirm the digital request. Please contact AAM to discuss documentation available to support your digital issue requests.

 

Nonrequested

A digital issue made available without request or payment from the recipient is eligible for inclusion on AAM publisher’s statements and audit reports as analyzed nonpaid circulation. Proof of engagement with the digital issue must be confirmed.

  • Market coverage – If name of recipient is known.
  • Nonpaid bulk – If made available to unknown consumers (not derived from a list source) or access is to an unrestricted website.

For the audit, proof of access to each issue by unique individuals is required. Please contact AAM to discuss documentation available for the audit of your digital analyzed nonpaid circulation.

 

Back Copies

Back copies are not permitted for subscriptions to the digital issue.

For three months following the on-sale date, single-issue sales of the digital issue are eligible for inclusion as paid single copy provided the purchaser specifically ordered the back issue.

 

Print-To-Digital Conversions

Publishers may convert existing print subscribers to digital service and claim the circulation on AAM documents if the consumer is asked and agrees to the conversion. If the subscriber is unresponsive or declines the conversion, the digital circulation served to these individuals is not eligible for inclusion on AAM documents.

 

Reporting

See a prototype of a consumer magazine publisher’s statement with a digital issue.

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Definitions and frequently asked questions.

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