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And now today there are reports of more free Wall Street Journals, this time sponsored by MaxJet, the biz-class-only service to London. Which, when we glanced at the calendar, finally made sense: It's March 31, the final day for one of the two annual Audit Bureau of Circulations reporting periods. As we've explained before, the Audit Bureau is the circ-counting police, and the bureau's rules allow free copies to count as paid circulation if someone, somewhere is paying for them. So when you MaxJet pays for a Journal to be handed to you, that's considered real, paid circ — and, as the reporting period draws to a close, newspapers all around town are driving up their daily-paid averages with this sketchy but fully legal gimmick.

Except for one. Leave it to Rupert Murdoch's Posties to take sketchy-but-legal and turn it into sketchy-and-cheating. There's a shocked expose today in the News — so, granted, take it with a small grain of salt — that the Post was caught taking third-party sponsored papers directly from the printing plant to the recycling center — and from there, for some reason, to China. Which doesn't make the Audit Bureau very happy. They're picky that way: Even if you're giving the paper for free, they have this strange insistence that someone actually look at it before they'll count it. (Or, at least, someone not in China.) Crazy, no?

New York Post Gets Down in the Dumps [NYP]
Does Your Bank Buy You the Morning Paper?
Anything 'News' Can Do 'Post' Can Do Better
More Free Newspapers!
'WSJ' Stoops to Join the Free-Paper Brigade
Freepapers 2006: Today, the 'Post'