How to Use AAM Information to Evaluate U.S. Community

How to Use AAM
Information to Evaluate
U.S. Community
This booklet is designed to help you understand AAM (formerly the Audit
Bureau of Circulations) audit reports and publisher’s statements for U.S.
newspapers that participate in AAM’s Community Newspaper Audit (CNA)
program. CNA is an audit program designed specifically for newspapers
with total average circulation under 25,000. This service streamlines the
audit process and requires less publisher preparation and involvement for
community newspapers.
This guide explains recent rule changes, including new categories for print
and digital circulation. AAM offers more information about rules, reporting
requirements and specific guidelines at
Table of Contents
Sources of Data............................................................. 2
Reports at a Glance...................................................... 5
Paragraph Contents...................................................... 6
Glossary....................................................................... 12
Additional Audit Services............................................ 14
Media Intelligence Center........................................... 15
Sources of Data
Publisher’s Statements
All publisher members are required to report their circulation
on an AAM publisher’s statement.
Publishers file their circulation
claims with AAM for the sixmonth periods ending on March
31 and September 30.
Community newspapers have 20
days after the period ends to file
their statements with AAM.
AAM’s Technical Review and
Report Processing (TRRP) department reviews each statement
for errors and omissions in the
stated circulation figures, and corrections are made as necessary.
AAM then releases the publisher’s
statement to the membership
via the Media Intelligence Center.
A PDF is also provided to the
publisher for print reproduction
Information on a publisher’s statement is subject to audit.
Snapshot Reports (formerly FAS-FAX)
Immediately following the statement filing deadline, AAM compiles preliminary data from all newspaper publisher’s statements received. A summary report called Snapshot is then released to the membership.
This report reflects top-line circulation information alphabetically by publication name. These reports are issued twice a year for the March 31 and September 30 six-month reporting periods.
Snapshot is a useful tool that is widely referenced by media buyers and publishers who often need a quick
and current summary of circulation trends and changes.
The print version (above) of Snapshot reflects the
averages of the community newspaper member’s circulation. Publishers are not required to report
day-of-week circulation but can report a combined
daily average and separate Saturday and Sunday averages.
If the newspaper participates in Audience Snapshot,
data may include:
• Past 7-day print readership
• Past 7-day print readership reach
• Past 30-day online readership
• Past 30-day net combined print and online
• Total unique users and page views of a
newspaper’s website
Total average circulation for community newspapers is
broken out by:
• Total average circulation (paid and verified)
for the period
• Total circulation
– Print
– Digital Replica
– Digital Nonreplica
– Total
The online version of Snapshot provides expanded
information, including total average circulation for each
day of the week separately. Since community newspapers do not file day-of-week reporting, this is not
broken out for CNA participants.
For specific sourcing information, please refer to the
newspapers’ individual publisher’s statements.
Audit Reports
A circulation audit is an in-depth
examination of a publication’s
circulation claims. It involves independent, third-party verification of
a publisher’s records and recordkeeping systems. AAM functions
as the independent third party,
conducting the audit and issuing
annual or biennial audit reports to
validate circulation claims.
An AAM audit report presents the
objective findings of AAM’s audit of
a publication’s circulation claims.
Audit reports verify the information
reported in publisher’s statements
filed for the same period. While
community newspapers submit
publisher’s statements twice yearly,
an audit is conducted every other
If an auditor reports a deviation of
greater than 3 percent, AAM issues
a bulletin to all members informing
them of the findings. All variances
between claims made in the publisher’s statement and the auditor’s
findings are also noted in the audit
How is a Circulation Audit Conducted?
While each audit is based on individual circumstances, AAM auditors generally examine the following items (not all-inclusive) during a newspaper audit:
• Circulation ledgers showing totals for each issue by circulation type (i.e. home delivery, single-copy sales, mail
subscriptions, and the various categories of verified circulation).
• Publisher records verifying geographic distribution broken out by counties and ZIP codes receiving more
than 25 copies.
• Analysis of subscriber records, including payment and term received.
• Subscription and single-copy prices, including changes that occurred during the audit period.
• Return policies and percentages of leftover, undelivered or unsold copies by geographic area.
• Carrier and dealer records, including billings, contests, credits and payments.
• Promotion files detailing direct marketing campaigns, radio and television promotions, and
telemarketing efforts to verify qualification of all offers made in the audit period.
• Requestor files for verified home delivery-requested circulation programs.
• Any additional records necessary to verify circulation claims.
Reports at a Glance
Publisher’s Statements and Audit Reports
Executive Summary – Totals print and digital editions for a total average circulation number.
Paragraph 1A – Expanded circulation details are provided for the member newspaper’s print and digital circulation, which includes individually paid, business/traveler and verified circulation figures.
Paragraph 2 – Basic Prices: Annual basic prices must be established for home-delivery subscriptions and single copies. A newspaper can establish a different annual basic price for digital editions.
Audit Reports Only
Audit Statement – The audit statement reports any variance between the audit report and the publisher’s statement for the same period.
Paragraph 3 – County Analysis: Actual one-day gross distribution and average projected
circulation averages by counties are required.
Paragraph 3A – ZIP Code Analysis: Distribution by ZIP codes receiving 25 or more copies
is required.
Publisher’s Statements and Audit Reports
Paragraph 4 – Explanatory: Descriptions of newspaper editions, omitted days, average unpaid distribution, returned copies, etc.
Paragraph 5 – Audience Snapshot Explanatory: Provides details for the Audience Snapshot
program if a U.S. daily newspaper participates.
Paragraph Contents
Report Masthead
The official name of the primary
publication is shown at the top of
publisher’s statements and audit
reports. The publication may
include their URL and a graphic
of its official title as a heading
on the first page.
Executive Summary
This paragraph describes the total average circulation by print and digital editions for the period
covered in the report. AAM also reports the average of all copies sold that are compliant with AAM
rules, guidelines and policies.
Circulation averages are broken out by daily and Sunday averages. The publisher may also choose
to report an extra day of the week or combination of weekdays, excluding Sunday. This is known as
a “power day.”
Audience Snapshot contains
audience data for U.S. newspapers
participating in this program.
Publishing Plans
This box contains detailed
descriptions of the primary member
Note: CNA newspaper reports do not break out branded
editions unless requested by the member newspaper.
Paragraph 1A
Paragraph 1A provides expanded details
for the newspaper’s print and digital editions.
The total average circulation number from
this paragraph ties to the total average circulation number in the executive summary.
Individually Paid Circulation
Copies requested and paid for by
individual consumers for at least
one cent, net of all considerations.
Standard distribution types are
explained here.
Home Delivery and Mail: Copies delivered to address-specific locations paid
for by individuals.
Joint Distribution: Home-delivered copies distributed to another AAM member’s subscribers on no more than two days and only when the host newspaper
is not published.
Single-Copy Sales: Copies purchased by individuals at retail outlets, including
vending machines, rack and hawker sales.
Group Subscriptions (Designated Employees): Subscriptions purchased by
businesses for two or more designated employees (known by name or title). The
business must pay at least one cent for the subscription.
Business/Traveler Paid Circulation
Copies distributed in hotels to
guests or by a business to its
Verified Circulation
Newspapers that are available for
use by individual consumer that are
either nonpaid or paid for by someone other than the individual. There
are six subclasses of verified
Hotel Distribution – Guest Refund: Newspapers purchased by hotels that are
included with the guest’s room charge and may be declined for a refund or credit.
Hotel Distribution – Room/Lobby Copies: Copies that are free to guests in
public areas or delivered to guest rooms and have been purchased by the hotel
for at least one cent per copy.
Home Delivery-Requested: Subscriptions requested by individuals for delivery
to their residence for a term of no less than 12 weeks.
Home Delivery-Targeted: Nonrequested subscriptions or single issues delivered to individual residences.
Educational Copies: Copies requested by schools for student use in the
Employee: Copies provided to employees and agents of the
newspaper as a benefit of employment.
University Copies: Copies requested by colleges or universities
for distribution to registered students in a campus setting via
limited access areas.
Retail/Business: Copies ordered by businesses for
recurring distribution to its patrons (e.g. restaurants,
airlines, doctors’ offices).
Paragraph 2 – Basic Prices
The basic price is the price at which
the publication may be purchased by
anyone at any time.
Annual basic prices must be established for each distribution method, including mail, home delivery and single
copy. These prices are determined by
the publisher and may be changed
at the publisher’s discretion provided
notification is made to AAM.
A publisher can establish a separate basic price for digital
The audit statement reports any
variance between the audit report
and the publisher’s statement for
the same period.
What is the 4 percent allowance?
AAM allows a total of 4 percent of the total pay-in-office subscription base for the aggregate of new credit
subscriptions canceled for nonpayment.
This also includes subscribers served short-term arrears (post-expiration copies) who paid at least one
cent for the term of the offer for carrier delivery office collect system and pay-in-office subscribers. Shortterm arrears served beyond 90 days from the date they expire do not qualify for inclusion and are not
included in paid circulation.
Paragraph 3 reports county and ZIP code data for a single Monday to Friday date and one Sunday
(if published) and includes all data for the member newspaper. Figures in this paragraph represent
“gross distribution,” which includes total copies (including returns).
Newspapers have three options for reporting geographic-level data for the member newspaper:
• Paid, verified, digital editions, total
• Individually paid, business/traveler, verified, digital editions, total
• Home delivery, single copy, business/traveler, verified, digital editions, total
Digital replica and nonreplica editions are not reported by county, ZIP code or town and are instead
reported as separate line items.
AAM is responsible for the preparation of the “occupied household” and “average projected circulation”
Paragraph 3 –
County Analysis
Newspapers are required to prepare
a county analysis for each analyzed
date that includes actual gross
distribution for:
Each county receiving 25 copies
or more in alphabetical order
(within each state)
Counties receiving fewer than
25 copies (the distribution is
combined under the heading
“Miscellaneous Counties”)
States receiving fewer than 25
copies (the distribution is
combined under the heading
“All Other”)
Digital replica and nonreplica
editions are included as
separate line items
Total average circulation
Average Projected Circulation
A column of statistics that is a projection of the averages from
paragraph 1 to the appropriate AAM-defined geographic market’s one-day(s) gross distribution figures. It is designed to give
the user an idea of the net circulation in the reported county,
town and ZIP code on an average day.
The average projected circulation is calculated using the average
for the day of week selected and the
Monday to Friday average.
Paragraph 3A – ZIP Code Analysis
Paragraph 3A contains a breakout of circulation by ZIP code. The date(s) used for this analysis are chosen by
the publication, but must be representative of the audit period. Newspapers are required to prepare a ZIP code
analysis for each analyzed date that includes gross distribution for:
• Each ZIP code receiving 25 or more copies on the paragraph 3 date(s)
ZIP codes receiving fewer than 25 copies (the distribution is included in a “miscellaneous ZIP codes”
line item)
• Digital replica and nonreplica editions are included as separate line items
• Total average circulation
How does AAM adjust these figures?
Figures used for paragraph 3A are gross distribution for the day(s) indicated. They
usually include some leftover and unsold copies. AAM adjusts these gross figures
back to the total average circulation shown in paragraph 1 and 1A to provide an
estimate of the number of copies that were paid and verified.
Paragraph 4 – Explanatory
This is the explanatory paragraph that
provides additional detail regarding the
circulation reported.
Standard Reporting
• A list of all regular publishing days
when the newspaper was not
printed or distributed.
• Details about any published digital
editions, including advertising policy
and format.
• A note detailing the average unpaid
distribution for each applicable publishing cycle in the statement period.
• An explanation of the publisher’s single-copy return policy.
• A detailed list of the newspaper’s omitted days. Newspapers can omit a maximum of 10 days from
circulation averages per 12-month audit period, provided the net paid circulation varies by 5 percent
or more for the previous corresponding day.
Paragraph 5 – Audience
Snapshot Explanatory
This paragraph provides details for the
Audience Snapshot program for
participating publications.
Readership and website suppliers are
selected by the publisher and audited
by AAM.
Paragraph 5 also includes any adjustments from the audience figures claimed in the publisher’s statement.
The effectiveness of AAM standards and policies depends on a common understanding of terms used in the newspaper
industry. Through auditing practices and its bylaws and rules, AAM has established definitions for many of the terms used in
circulation accounting. For additional information, refer to AAM’s bylaws and rules or visit
Advertiser and/or advertising agency copies – Copies of
a publication given to companies advertising in the publication
(one copy per advertiser) for verifying advertisements. Also
known as a checking copy.
Digital editions – Defined as the digital version of the member newspaper. There are two types:
Annual basic price – The price at which the publication may
be purchased by anyone at any time.
Nonreplica also has the same basic identity as the member
newspaper but the content, advertising and format may differ.
Arrears – Subscriptions retained on active subscription lists
after expiration.
Educational copies – Newspaper copies that are ordered
for delivery to schools, either purchased individually from class
funds or by specific sponsors.
Audit – Examination of a publisher’s circulation records and
corroborative data to check for correctness in the publisher’s
statements covering the period audited.
Replica has same basic identity, content and authorized ROP
advertising as core newspaper.
Employee copies – Copies given to employees of the newspaper.
Audit report – Official document issued by AAM, detailing its
findings as a result of a third-party verification.
Expiration – End of a period for which a subscription was paid.
Average projected circulation – See page 9 for explanation.
Extension – Extending of a subscription beyond its original
date because of lowering of subscription price or reducing the
frequency of issue.
Branded edition – Edition of the newspaper that displays a
different name from the member newspaper.
Carrier – An individual engaged in delivery of newspapers.
Combination sales – Subscriptions to two or more different
publications sold at a special combined price.
Complimentary copies – Copies given away as a courtesy.
Counter sales – Newspapers sold over the publisher’s counter to individual purchasers. If sold in quantities of 11 or more,
such copies are allocated to third-party sales.
Credit subscriptions – A subscription for which payment is
not made at time of order.
Days omitted from averages – Newspapers may exclude
from its averages those publishing days in which the net sales
varied from “normal” net sales by at least five percent. The set
limit is a maximum of 10 days per audit year.
Distribution – The total number of copies distributed per issue whether paid, nonpaid or unpaid.
Distributor – A general term applied to carriers, dealers,
street vendors and all others who sell publications as a vocation. This term also covers middlemen who resell newspapers
to carriers, dealers, street vendors and all others.
Draw – Number of copies of a publication charged to dealer,
carrier or another distributor.
Extra – Edition of a newspaper other than those issued regularly
each day.
Four percent allowance – See page 8 for explanation.
FSI (freestanding insert) – Advertisements that are printed
separately from the publication and inserted for distribution.
These inserts are often provided to the newspaper directly
from the advertiser.
Group (subscriptions to businesses for designated employees) – All copies or subscriptions purchased in quantities
of two or more by corporations, institutions or individuals for
employees, subsidiary companies or branches.
Home delivery – Any newspaper that is delivered by
carrier motor route to addresses.
Hotel distribution – Room/lobby copies are purchased by a
hotel and made available to guests. “Guest Refund” copies are
those copies paid for by the hotel but made available to the
consumer as part of hotel room charges. However, a
refund must be offered during the registration process.
Mail subscription – Subscriptions served by mail
and qualifying under AAM rules.
Motor route – Delivery of single copies by
means of motor transport to subscribers.
Net press run – Total of printed copies suitable for distribution.
News agent – A distributor of newspapers or periodicals at
Newsdealer – A merchant with a fixed place of doing business who buys publications to sell again at retail.
Newspapers distributed together – A newspaper with
less frequency than daily and Sunday may include copies of
another newspaper in its subscription term on one day only,
rather than on multiple days.
Nonpaid newspapers – Free newspapers that are delivered
to designated households for market coverage. Total nonpaid
circulation and average controlled circulation to individuals and
public access, such as bulk drops and racks, can be issued
as a separate report by AAM.
Nonreturnable – Not subject to credit on being returned. A
sales plan in which dealers or other distributors purchase their
copies with the understanding that they must pay for all copies
purchased, whether or not they sell them.
Paid circulation – Copies sold for at least one cent, net of all
Premium – Any item, except periodicals, offered to a subscriber either free or at a price with a subscription either
directly or by an agent.
Publisher’s statement – Statement of circulation claims covering a six month ending period made to AAM by a publisher
member and issued unaudited but subject to audit by AAM.
Rack sales – Sales of newspapers from racks or boxes,
placed on street corners or other convenient points, with the
customer depositing coins in payment in a box provided for
that purpose. Same as “box” or “honor box” sales.
Returnable – Copies of publication sold to distributors under
agreement to take back those unsold.
• Fully returnable means all copies sold to any and all
distributors may be returned if unsold.
• Limited returnable is used in two senses. First, when a
part of the distribution is sold on a returnable basis and
part on a nonreturnable basis; second, when distributors
are allowed the return privilege but only of a certain
percentage of the quantity purchased.
Returns – Copies retuned to the publisher by a dealer or
other distributor for credit. Frequently, to save transportation
charges, only newspaper headings (banners or mastheads)
or covers are returned, not complete copies.
Run-of-press (ROP) – Advertisements that are part of the
printed version of the newspaper.
Sample copies – Copies distributed free to prospective
subscribers or prospective advertisers. Copies delivered as
part of contractual arrangement cannot be counted as sample
Short-term subscription – Subscription term of less than a
Split-period audit – Audit covering a period other than that
covered by the regular publisher’s statement.
Split run – The insertion or substitution of different advertising
content for a portion of the distribution of an edition or of an
issue for either a newspaper or a periodical.
Street sales – Newspapers sold by individuals on the street
(“hawkers”) or through racks, as distributed from those sold by
dealers with permanent shops or by a carrier with a regular list
of customers.
Subscription agency – An individual firm or corporation
obtaining subscriptions for two or more publications.
Supplement – A compilation of syndicated and/or locally
edited features, news items, or editorial comment and advertising distributed as a separate part or section of a newspaper.
Supplemental Data Report (SDR) – Subject to an AAM
audit, these reports include data not included in the publisher’s
statement or audit report. They can supply analyses of county
distribution or demographics as well as a newspaper’s nonpaid circulation, electronic or unique edition distribution.
Total average circulation – Average circulation of all the
issues in a frequency, arrived at by dividing the total circulation
of all the issues of the frequency during the period by the total
number of issues.
University copies – Copies requested by colleges or universities for distribution to registered students in a campus setting
via limited-access areas.
Unpaid copies – Copies distributed either entirely free and
able to count as verified or at a price inadequate to qualify
them as paid in accordance with AAM rules.
Verified circulation – Copies that are available for
individual consumers that are either nonpaid or paid
by someone other than the individual.
Additional Audit Services
The Consolidated Media Report is AAM’s customizable report that allows
publisher members to present advertisers with a snapshot of their entire media
footprint across multiple products and channels. All products included on the
report must be owned/operated by an AAM member.
Below are a few examples of what can be included in a CMR:
• Paid and nonpaid circulation
• Digital replica and nonreplica editions • Website traffic
• Email newsletter distribution • Print readership
• Online readership
• Text alerts
• Mobile distribution
AAM staff will work with you to test the reporting and auditing of any product
you wish to include on the report.
AAM’s Coupon Distribution Verification Service (CDVS) is for newspapers
that desire to market the attractiveness of their safe handling practices and procedures of advertisers’ coupons. The coupon industry is a billion dollar industry
where newspapers play an integral part. CDVS confirms that a newspaper is
committed to two things: First, eliminating coupon fraud, and second, establishing their newspaper as the most reliable delivery vehicle. The CDVS program is
supported by major coupon suppliers, leading coupon redemption centers and
coupon manufacturers.
Audience Snapshot answers advertisers’ needs for measurement data that
reflects newspapers’ full reach and audience. Audience Snapshot is available
for U.S. daily newspapers and integrates newspaper readership, online audience and website activity data on AAM reports. All audience and website data is
independently audited by AAM and reported in AAM publisher’s statements, audit
reports and Snapshot. The data is also published in an industry database at
Media Intelligence Center
Powerhouse Products at Your Fingertips
Newspaper Analyzer: This versatile analysis tool offers a
myriad of AAM-verified circulation data.
• Access to vital information refreshed every 24 hours.
• Up to 10 years of historical data from audit reports
for easy trending.
Available as a full product or in three modules: U.S. daily and
weekly newspapers, all Canadian and international newspapers
and nonpaid newspapers.
• Generate reports with the components you need.
• Review, manipulate, analyze and download current and
historical audit report data.
• Utilize a range of search criteria, including publisher, title,
circulation size, state, market area and ZIP code.
• Built-in, customizable, standard reports for timely analysis.
• Create and save multiple queries for speedy reference.
Audit Status Listing [Password required for free product]
This listing provides the current status of reports for all open audits,
along with the date each audit was moved to its current status.
Where applicable, specific data is provided on the most recently
released audit for all publisher members.
Snapshot Analyzer: The Snapshot Analyzer is a complement
to AAM’s U.S. daily newspaper Snapshot report. This online tool
provides a searchable, customizable query tool comprising AAM
member daily newspaper top-line and publisher’s statement data
and is available same day of release of newspaper Snapshot.
• Day-of-week level circulation
• Paid and verified breakouts for print, digital replica and
digital nonreplica
• Multiple search options including top 50 and top 100
circulation size
• Save and retrieve lists
• Download customized data queries in Excel or PDF formats
• Query and download CMR metrics
• Access expanded top-line and branded edition data with
release of publisher’s statements
For details on other products,
demos and tutorials:
> Visit
> Call 877-222-0932
> Email [email protected]
RateBook: Perform quick comparisons with this handy reference
report. Released twice a year following the filing of the March and
September publisher’s statements. Includes basic prices for single
copy and home delivery and mail – 52 week/1 year rates.
Reports Library: With this vital online resource, you gain access to
thousands of AAM reports in digital format, both current and historical. The database offers the most up-to-date reports, posted as
soon as they are released. Subscriptions are offered in two convenient modules: current three years and historical (10 years).
The Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations) is
a forum of North America's leading magazine and newspaper publishers,
advertisers and advertising agencies. The organization provides credible,
verified information essential to the media buying and selling process. AAM
maintains the world’s foremost online database of audited circulation information and a growing array of readership, audience and website usage
data. AAM’s digital subsidiary is one of the world’s leading independent
auditors of websites and digital ad-based technology.
Headquarters Office
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Canadian Office
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P: 416.962.5840 • F: 416.962.5844
How to Use AAM Information to Evaluate U.S. Community Newspapers
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