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Pubs That Go Digital-Only Face New Requirements

Publishers also will need to report circulation more frequently
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Newsweek might have been the most high-profile magazine to go digital-only, but it's probably not the last. And so the Alliance for Audited Media—as the Audit Bureau of Circulations has renamed itself—has endorsed new guidelines for print publications that go digital-only. 

The new guidelines, adopted at the AAM's Nov. 14-16 board meeting, say that when a publication makes that transition, it must give subscribers the option of receiving the digital subscription; converting to another print publication; or receiving a refund for the remainder of the subscription.

The Newsweek announcement was a catalyst for the move, said Neal Lulofs, evp, planning and communication for the AAM. “The reality is that the publishing market is changing quickly, so the AAM board wanted to make sure it was staying on top and addressing the potential for more of these kinds of changes in the future,” he said.

The AAM is also looking to toughen up circulation-reporting requirements for publishers. In response to pressure from media buyers, the AAM board agreed to require U.S. magazines with circulations over 250,000 to provide issue-by-issue circulation data to the AAM's Rapid Report.

The Rapid Report has been a voluntary service since it was introduced in 2006, and participation has been uneven. Some publishers take several months to report data or don’t provide data for every issue. 

"Media buyers on our board have been pushing for” the requirement, Lulofs said, adding that “the board recognizes the need to keep moving forward, and the availability of timely data is certainly a requirement."

The AAM will likely require publishers to follow its current recommendations, which call for weekly publications to provide raw circulation data about seven weeks after an issue goes off sale and for monthlies to report data 10 weeks after an issue goes off sale. Just to make sure publications comply, the AAM will hold out the threat of sanctions, although exactly what those are hasn't been determined. The new reporting requirement would take effect in July 2013, pending final passage in March.