Max Heath’s final column: Advertising measurement rules from DMM and Customer Support Rulings compiled

Max Heath

Editor’s Note: This column first appeared in the September 2021 issue of the National Newspaper Association Foundation’s periodical, Publishers’ Auxiliary. This is Max Heath’s last column, submitted before he fell ill. Max, the 1987 President of the Kentucky Press Association and long-time chair of the NNA Postal Committee, passed away in August after suffering a stroke. Postal Tips will continue as part of the Max Heath Postal Institute, written by NNA’s postal team.

Rules concerning ad measurement are shared below, with citations from the Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) and Customer Support Rulings (CSRs). Both are available at Postal Explorer website,


Advertising is defined in DMM as:

(a) “All material for the publication of which a valuable consideration is paid, accepted or promised, that calls attention to something to get people to buy it, sell it, seek it, or support it.”

(b) “Reading matter or other material for the publication of which an advertising rate is charged.”

(c) News stories run in return for an ad in the same issue must also be counted as advertising (although put more simply here than in DMM.)  Therefore, paid obits are counted as paid lineage.

(d) “House ads” for newspaper subscriptions, advertising, websites or businesses owned by the newspaper are also considered paid advertising, whether in display advertising or reading matter.

Public-service announcements “for which no valuable consideration is received by the publisher … which promote programs, activities or services of federal, state or local governments or of nonprofit organizations, or matters generally regarded as in the public interest” are NOT treated as advertising.  (DMM


“The total advertising and nonadvertising portions may be determined by column inches, square inches, pages, or by another recognized unit of measure,” so long as the same unit is used for both portions.

Newspapers cannot be forced to use a certain method.

Most newspapers use column-inch measurement. One must compute the total units of space in the entire publication, as well as the total units of advertising. For instance, a 20-page paper might contain 2,580 total inches of space (six columns X 21.5 inches X 20 pages = 2,580 inches). If the advertising units measured 1,565 inches, 1,565 divided by 2,580 equals 60.66% paid.

Round advertising percentage to two decimal places as shown in previous sentence. Round up numbers five and up; round down four and below. Slash marks through the advertising with a colored marker are adequate. Also, to determine the weight per copy, weigh 10 copies and divide by 10. The weight is expressed in decimal pounds rounded off to four decimal places. (DMM


When using column or square inches, the marginal space should be disregarded. It will take its proportionate share in the percentage of advertising and nonadvertising matter arrived at for the whole issue. CSR PS-12 also states, “the border of a page, space between columns, and space between advertisements are neither advertising matter nor matter other than advertising.”

PS-12 also rules that “In determining the advertising and nonadvertising percentages, one full page of advertising material must equal the same measurement as one full page of news content.” In other words, if one page of all news counts as 129 inches, one page of all advertising will count as 129 inches, even if there are a variety of ad sizes on the page. This is true “regardless of the amount of blank spaces between each advertisement on a page … ”.


Headers that accompany ad matter, such as Classified Ads or Legal Ads, are considered advertising. Likewise, headers accompanying news matter are nonadvertising (CSR PS-143). An advertising index is considered advertising (CSR PS-251).


Some papers convert eight-column classified pages to six-column pages (172 inches to 129 inches) for consistency in measurement. You could follow this practice for tab sections with four or five columns per page vs. broadsheet pages with six columns per page.

It is also acceptable to measure inches on tabloid pages as the number of inches times the height (5 col. by 12 inches = 70 inches, rather than half of 129 inches, or 64.5). This measure slightly overstates the ad percentage, however.


With the broadsheet or tabloid newspaper open to the two pages that show standard columns, open the supplement with its spine nested inside the broadsheet centerfold. Match the printed width of the ad supplement to the closest number of columns (typically four or five) that it approximates. For example, an eight-page tab whose ad matter measured closest to four columns wide with 10 vertical inches would contain 40 inches per page. That would be 320 inches added to the total column inches in the newspaper, and then 320 inches added to the advertising matter, etc.


Regular paid newspapers cannot exceed 75% advertising in more than half their issues. A weekly could have 26 issues over 75%, but after that, nonadvertising matter must be added to any issues that would exceed 75%. (DMM You CAN have 75% advertising — just not 75.1% and above in more than half the issue.

Requester newspapers may exceed 75% advertising 25% of the time. This change to was requested by NNA on behalf of its Requester members and is halfway between the previous paid and Requester rule. Issues over the limit can be mailed at Standard Mail rates on an occasional basis. (CSR PS-147)

When an issue is prepared in editions, if one edition is over 75%, the entire issue will be considered over 75%. Averaging is not allowed, unfortunately. (CSR PS-241)


Ads that are rerun to correct a problem must also be counted as advertising again, even if no money changes hands for the second, corrective run. (This is on advice from the NY Pricing and Classification Service Center.)


Unbound newspapers may enclose sealed or unsealed envelopes containing sheets of advertising (CSR PS-078) via a ruling obtained in 1997 by NNA for its members’ advertisers. Envelopes can also be in bound Periodicals as result of a rules revision, although they can’t be loose unless the magazine is in a wrapper.


Max Heath, the late NNA postal chair emeritus, was a semi-retired postal consultant. For postal assistance, email NNA Postal Chair Matt Paxton,

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