Circ 101: 3 Examples of Magazine Media Promotions

November 22, 2019

Sandi Licking, Client Solutions Manager


The Circulation 101 series reviews some of the basic knowledge you need to understand how print and digital circulation is qualified, audited and reported throughout the AAM verification process. In previous columns focused on magazine media, I’ve defined terms for magazine single-copy sales and analyzed nonpaid circulation as well as paid and verified magazine subscriptions and general magazine circulation terminology.

In this column, I’ll highlight three examples of magazine media promotions that generate paid subscriptions or single-copy sales circulation.



Premiums are items or offers used to entice an individual to purchase a magazine. A premium may be a free product, service or discount off a product or service.

The following items are not considered premiums:

  • Publications, including other magazines and newspapers. These types of promotions are combination sales.
  • Part of the subscription term.
  • Free or discounted access to archives.
  • Free or discounted access to online content or digital editions from the same editorial home as the offering publication.
  • Anything sent free by mail with the subscription offer or sample merchandise that can be ordered and received regardless if a subscription is purchased.
  • Items offered to current paid subscribers as an inducement to convert to payment for a future subscription.

For subscriptions or single copies sold with premiums to qualify as paid circulation, the following is required:

  • The purchase price must be no less than one cent, plus the full value of the premium.
  • The value of the premium is the highest of either:
    • The recognized retail price
    • Represented, stated or advertised value
    • Cost to the publisher

Premium Offer Example:

Subscribe Today

___ YES! Sign me up for one year of Recipe Magazine for $24.00 and I’ll receive a free Weeknight Dinners cookbook worth $23.99 at no extra cost.

Name ________________________
City, State, ZIP _________________

The minimum purchase price must be no less than one cent plus the full value of the premium. In this example, the purchase price is $24.00, which is exactly one cent for the subscription plus the stated value of the premium of $23.99.


Association Subscriptions

Association subscriptions are included as a benefit of membership to an association which may be any organization or society that meets postal and federal or state tax rules as a not-for-profit or non-profit entity. To qualify:

  • All association members must be notified that their annual dues or membership fees include a subscription to the publication.
  • A portion of the annual dues or membership fees must be allocated to the subscriptions and:
    • The amount allocated must be no less than one cent.
    • The annual dues or membership fees must be no less than the value assigned to the magazine, plus any premiums received outside of the benefits of membership.
    • Upon application for new membership, the consumer must be informed that the magazine is included as a benefit of membership and the value assigned to the subscription.
    • The portion of the annual dues or membership fees must be clearly stated on every invoice or renewal notice.
    • The subscription value may be presented as either deductible or nondeductible but all invoices or noticed must state which one applies.

Association Subscription Offer Example:

___ YES! I want a one-year membership to Proto Association.
Enclosed is my $20.00. I understand $6.00 will be applied to a one-year subscription of Proto Magazine and is nondeductible from my dues.

Name ________________________
Address ______________________
City, State, ZIP _________________

In this example, the consumer is notified the subscription is included with membership, the value of the subscription is at least one cent, the subscription value is noted as nondeductible and the annual dues are at least $6.01.


Gift Subscriptions

A gift subscription is purchased by a consumer for another individual as an expression of personal friendship. The following is required to qualify as paid subscriptions:

  • The purchaser must pay at least one cent for each subscription in the sale.
  • In the offer, all subscriptions included must be positioned to the consumer as paid for as part of the total amount.
  • Limit of 50 subscriptions per individual purchaser.

Subscriptions purchased to promote a professional or business interest are not gift subscriptions. Instead, they may qualify as verified, analyzed nonpaid market coverage, analyzed nonpaid bulk or nonanalyzed nonpaid.

Orders of more than 50, where the subscriptions are individually addressed, are considered a sponsored sale.

Gift Subscription Offer Example:

____ YES! Sign me up for a one-year subscription to Prototype Magazine and send a one-year subscription to my friend listed below for a total of two subscriptions for $10.00.

Send my subscription:
Name ________________________
City, State, ZIP _________________

Include a friend’s subscription:
Name ______________________
Address ____________________
City, State, ZIP _______________

A contractual agreement must state that all subscriptions received are paid for at the total amount charged. In this example, the contractual agreement states “two subscriptions for $10.00.” 

For more information about promotional programs for magazines, review our online guide.


Topics: Magazine Media, Reporting, Circ 101

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