Qualifying digital issues as paid circulation

Magazine media digital issues

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. 

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 17.3/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 

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, Membership 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.