BPA rule changes aim to standardize subscriptions

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BPA Worldwide changed and clarified a few of its rules at a board meeting in late May, including creating regulations for third-party/sponsored subscriptions.

Sponsored rules were originally established for consumer magazines in May 2005 by BPA. Although there are not many b-to-b titles that currently conduct sponsored sales, the key aspects of BPA's rules have been extended to the b-to-b world because this is gradually changing.

Sponsored subscriptions, a staple in many consumer-magazine circulator and newspaper-circulator toolboxes for many years, is when an outside entity or corporation pays for a number of copies of a title and has them delivered to people who aren't on the circulation file. This helps get the advertiser's message out and, circulators hope, grows the circulation base of the b-to-b publication.

The update basically gives b-to-b publications the same procedures to work within. "The key rules are: Sponsorship sales must be nonrecourse transactions (no payments back to the purchaser/sponsor); agents cannot be sponsors of subscription or single-copy sales; and auditors have the right to review accounting records as they pertain to circulation to ensure compliance with the rules," according a release from BPA.

Auditors will now have full access to any information involving third-party sales, so circulators will need to willingly open their books if asked. Also, the recipients of the publication should not have to make any purchase of a sponsor's product to complete any transaction.

Another rule update refined geographic reporting disclosure requirements. The requirements now state that if a region accounts for less than 5% of a title's circulation, the numbers need only to be represented by continent, while regions representing 5% to 49% of a publication's circulation must report circulation by country. Any higher circulations must be reported by state and province within any one country. This allows media buyers and publishing executives to study competititive titles on an apples-to-apples basis.

Also, Web-based content rules have been clarified. The BPA board voted to continue to allow paid subscribers or free registered users to a publication's Web content to be reported on the circulation statement in the Integrated Data Table provided for publishers' optional use. This table reports subscribers to Web sites and e-mail newsletters, Web site traffic, event/exhibition attendees and pass-along recipient data.

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