Circ 101: News Media Terms for Nonpaid Circulation

June 24, 2019

Sandi Licking, Client Solutions Training Manager



In our Circulation 101 columns, we explore some of the foundational knowledge needed to understand and analyze print and digital circulation. Whether you’re new to circulation and AAM and need a cheat sheet or you’re a veteran looking for a quick refresh, we’ve got something for you. In this column, we’ll explain nonpaid newspaper circulation categories.


Qualified Nonpaid Circulation – Home Delivery

This category of circulation has two subcategories that help explain how the circulation is targeted to the receiving audience.

Home Delivery Address Specific – This subcategory of qualified nonpaid circulation home delivery represents a publication’s free home delivery sampling program. The program following requirements:

  • Delivered to a specific address
  • Only include residential units
  • Only one copy per residential unit
  • If the service is more than a day, the recipient is notified of the term and frequency of the service and provided the opportunity to opt out
  • Editorial content is not required, but must be a vehicle for delivering freestanding inserts
  • Print or digital service are both allowed but digital copies will only qualify if they are requested and accessed

Home Delivery Market Coverage– This subcategory also represents one of news media’s sampling programs. The program requirements:

  • Not addressed specific, but a saturation of a particular area
  • Only print editions qualify
  • Only includes residential units
  • Only one copy per residential unit
  • Editorial content is not required, but must be a vehicle for delivering freestanding inserts


Qualified Nonpaid Circulation – Public Access (Retail/Business, Dist. to Apts., and Racks & Other Distribution)

Retail/Business – These copies are requested by public locations such as doctors’ offices, restaurants or hospitals for use by their patrons. Copies are for reoccurring delivery and do not apply to one-time distribution or events.

Distribution to Apartments – These are copies delivered to residential apartments and made easily accessible to residents.

Racks and Other Distribution – This category includes free copies of the newspaper distributed via racks at nonresidential locations such as bus stops, grocery stores, gas stations, etc.


Qualified Nonpaid Circulation – Other Qualified (Employee/Independent Contractor, Education & University Copies)

Educational copies – These are copies served to students in a classroom with the following requirements:

  • The classroom or school must be accredited
  • The teacher must request the copies and include the desired frequency and time period of delivery as well as the number of students in the classroom
  • The copies must be used in the classroom
  • The news media organization must collect affidavits annually
  • Only one print or digital edition may be counted per student

University Copies – These are print or digital copies made available for pickup and use by university and college students. Eligibility requirements include:

  • A request from the university or college to receive the copies
  • Copies are made available to registered students and faculty
  • For print copies, the distribution must be in a limited-access area of the campus used only by students. Additionally, the quantity claimed must be the net copies consumed for each issue.
  • For digital copies, students and faculty must register, activate or download the application to start the subscription. Only the copies accessed qualify and a unique identifier for each user must be made available for the audit.

Employee/Independent Contractor – These copies are served to current or retired employees, independent contractors or carriers, and correspondents who contribute at least one article per month. If the news media organization has multiple titles, only one copy across the portfolio may be claimed for the employee program.

View the full list of news media circulation terms and definitions in our support center


Topics: News Media, Circ 101

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