Customer Support Ruling
Circulation Standards for General Publications - Periodicals
UPDATED July 2014
This Customer Support Ruling discusses the circulation standards that apply to newspapers and other periodical publications authorized Periodicals mailing privileges under the general publications category.
Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) 220.127.116.11 provides that general publications must have a legitimate list of subscribers who have paid or promised to pay, at a price above a nominal price, for copies to be received during a stated time. DMM 18.104.22.168g further states that publications primarily designed for free circulation and/or circulation at nominal prices may not qualify for the general publications category. Publications are considered primarily designed for free circulation and/or circulation at nominal prices when more than 50% of all copies circulated are provided free of charge to the ultimate recipients, or are paid for at nominal prices by the ultimate recipients, or are addressed using an alternative form of address, or when other evidence indicates that the intent of the publisher is to circulate the publication free and/or at nominal prices. The distribution of all copies of a publication is considered, whether circulated in the mail or otherwise.
There is an expectation that each issue of a general publication will be distributed according to the circulation standards prescribed for general Periodicals publications. A determination of compliance with circulation standards cannot be made based solely on the ratio of subscriber copies to nonsubscriber copies reflected by cumulative totals over a period of time, such as a month or a calendar year. Conversely, the one time or occasional circulation of nonsubscriber copies in excess of the number of subscriber copies cannot be the sole basis for a determination of noncompliance with the standards.
As a hypothetical example, a publisher plans to mail more copies to nonsubscribers than to subscribers of an issue the publisher has selected for extensive promotion to potential subscribers. Even taking into consideration copies that the publisher plans to distribute outside the mail, the total nonsubscriber distribution for the issue will exceed the distribution to subscribers. This is permissible on a one time or infrequent basis.
However, if the publisher distributes more nonsubscriber copies than subscriber copies on a regular or ongoing basis, or otherwise exhibits intent to distribute the publication primarily free, the publication’s Periodicals mailing privileges may be subject to revocation.
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