U.S. Postal Service Eases Magazine Rules

Lowers Threshold for Number of Paid Subscribers

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The U.S. Postal Service is proposing to ease standards for when a magazine's circulation counts as paid, effectively permitting publishers to send out ad-heavy special editions or advertorials without running afoul of postal rules and possibly leading to more rate-cutting promos.

In a filing last week with the Postal Rate Commission, the Postal Service proposed that in order for magazines to qualify for a paid-periodical rate, only 30% of subscriptions would have to be sold at the basic subscription rate, rather than the 50% required now.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations and the BPA dropped their 50% standard in 2001, allowing publishers to claim circulation as "paid" to advertisers no matter what the Postal Service says, but Magazine Publishers of America officials said the postal bar creates some confusion and raises concerns in certain situations when titles don't meet the 50% level.

Under postal rules, titles that don't qualify as paid can still be mailed for the same price by getting 50% of subscribers to request the publication. But using the "requester" rate comes with certain additional conditions -- 25% of each issue has to be editorial content and each title has to have at least 24 pages.

'More clarity'
Magazines mailed as "paid" periodicals don't have to be any specific number of pages, but the Postal Service requires that at least 25% of their content be editorial. Some publishers have expressed concern that without the change, magazines that don't qualify as paid could run into difficulty mailing advertorial sections or titles heavy in advertising.

Rita Cohen, MPA's senior VP-legislative and regulatory policy, predicted that the change will "have a nominal effect and bring more clarity." "We support the filing and hope there will be a settlement so that it can quickly be put into effect," Ms. Cohen said.
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