Magazines Face New Circulation Requirements

Publishers that don't comply could face sanctions

It may have taken more than six years, but the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations) has finally passed a rule to make publishers release their sales data in a timely manner. Today, the AAM announced that it will require U.S. magazines with a circulation of more than 250,000 to submit per-issue data through its online Rapid Report database.

Under the new rule, which was first introduced in November and takes effect in July, magazines will have to report initial sales by the end of the month following the month of the issue. (For instance, July issue data must be posted by Aug. 31.)

Until now, posting to the Rapid Report has been voluntary, and participants weren't penalized for failing to post their data in a timely fashion. Under the new rule, publishers that miss the deadline will receive a notification from the AAM, and if a magazine is more than 10 days late, it will be noted in the Rapid Report. If a publisher misses its filing deadline by 30 days more than three times, the magazine will be barred from the AAM Snapshot report for that period and will have to come before the AAM Magazine Committee before its statement can be released. The committee can also choose to place further sanctions on the publisher. The details are found here.

Introduced in 2006, the Rapid Report includes subscription, newsstand and digital numbers. About 240 magazines fit the circulation requirements for the new mandatory Rapid Report, but only 142 titles now participate. (Notable titles missing include AARP the Magazine and Forbes, as well as a slew of special interest and hobby magazines.) Even among official participants, magazines will often file data long after an issue is released or skip certain issues entirely. The lack of mandatory participation, and the time it took to institute the changes, has led to criticism of the Rapid Report for being unable to fulfill its mission of getting information out on a timely basis so that publishers could be more competitive with other media.

Scott Kruse, managing partner and director of print at GroupM, is one of the media buyers on the AAM board and helped to pass the new rule. “It’s all an attempt to be more transparent and timely with the data and create the same measurement standards for all titles in terms of making it mandatory,” Kruse said. “It has been a while in getting to this point, but I think the marketplace will respond very positively to it.”

Kruse added that while most of the large publishers already provide Rapid Report data, media buyers would benefit from getting that data more regularly. “It gives buyers the chance to compare everything in a timely manner across the board, so there won’t be any holes in terms of doing competitive analysis,” he said.