Circ 101: Using the Word “Free” in Paid News Media Promotions

September 18, 2019

Sandi Licking, Client Solutions Manager




Our Circulation 101 columns focus on the foundational knowledge you need to understand and analyze print and digital circulation. In previous columns, We've defined the various terms you may come across when reviewing news media circulation such as paid, business/traveler and qualified nonpaid. We also shared four examples of home delivery programs. In this column, we’ll review how and when you can use the word “free” to generate paid home delivery circulation.


Paid Subscriptions Using the Word “Free”

There are times when news media organizations can promote part of a subscription term as free, but still qualify the entire term of service as paid home delivery on AAM reports. These offers are used to entice a subscriber by offering a portion of the service for free. To qualify these offers:

  • The promotional materials must state the subscription term and frequency.
  • The purchase price must be at least one cent, net of all considerations.
  • The contract portion of the offer must state the full-delivery term and the purchase price of the subscription. The contract portion of the offer may be:
    • A direct mail piece where the consumer chooses a purchase option by checking a box.
    • An order page on a website or a shopping cart summary.
    • A verbal agreement in a telemarketing script.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Buy or renew a Monday - Sunday subscription to The Gazette today at regular prices and get up to three extra months absolutely FREE!

Yes! Sign me up for or renew my 7-day subscription today!

_____ 1 month for $10 plus 1 month free - that's 2 months for the price of 1.
_____ 3 months for $30 plus 1 month free - that's 4 months for the price of 3.
_____ 6 months for $60 plus 2 months free - that's 8 months for the price of 6.
_____ 1 year for $100 plus 3 months free - that's 15 months for the price of 12.


Sign up for Easy Pay today and get your first month subscription to The Gazette absolutely FREE!

That's right, the first month is on us!

Yes! Sign me up for Easy Pay today and get one month completely free!

That's your first two months for the price of one.
_____ 7-day ($9.00 per month)
_____ 6-day ($7.00 per month)
_____ Weekend only ($5.00 per month)
_____ Sunday only ($4.00 per month)

If part of the term is presented as free in Easy Pay offers, the value of the free term must be presented. In the example above, the value is shown with this statement, “That’s your first two months for the price of one.”

If the offer does not include the full term and price, the circulation will only qualify as qualified home delivery - address specific.

To learn more about how to qualify home delivery programs and examples, review our paid promotions guide.


Topics: News Media, Reporting, Circ 101

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