Analysis, Access and Assurance: News Media Buying Agencies Explain the Importance of Audited Data

Audited data is vital to the media planning process. Three media buying agencies explain how they use this data and why they place a premium on audited media.

Analysis, Access and Assurance: News Media Buying Agencies Explain the Importance of Audited Data

By Kevin Rehberg, Vice President, Client Development, Alliance for Audited Media

For more than 100 years, audits have given advertisers and media buying agencies assurance that their ads are distributed to the number of readers publications claimed to reach. Since 1914, audits have added an element of trust between advertisers and publishers that only can happen through verification by an independent third party.

But what is the role of a publisher audit in today’s media ecosystem? Several media planners from agencies that work closely with local media shared why audited information is critical to inform their media buying decisions.

Market Research and Analysis

For many media planners, a new campaign starts with researching what publications are available in a market and analyzing their reach. AAM’s Media Intelligence Center houses print and digital data for news media publishers across North America and is often the first source many agencies turn to when planning a store’s grand opening or fine-tuning a current campaign’s performance.

“We use AAM data when planning grand openings or for researching a new market presence,” said Trish Louderback, analysis manager at NSA Media. “If a retailer enters a new market, such as going from an urban into suburban or rural area, we might try to find a community publication that we hadn’t previously considered.”

Matt Spahn, CEO of planitretail, starts with a deep dive on ZIP code data.

Circulation by ZIP is the most valuable to us,” Spahn explained. “We also pay attention to overall totals and individual categories such as single-copy sales and home delivery. We download circulation data directly from the Media Intelligence Center. Then we integrate this data into our internal database and work with it from there.”

Spahn added that verified data helps him decide if a publication will help his clients’ message reach the right audience.

“This data also helps us analyze market penetration to determine if we are reaching high-value customers. We believe that detailed reporting informs smart targeting solutions. That’s why AAM data is invaluable when analyzing media products and for geographic targeting.”

AAM data is also sent directly to several leading industry information sources and media buying organizations including Kantar Media SRDS, Nielsen, Novus, Blue Soho, NSA Media and Retail Print Media. These data feeds are integrated into their systems and used frequently by internal staff along with other data sources.

Ray Young, president of Retail Print Media, said his company has a proprietary system that is automatically fed with AAM quarterly data.

“Our analysts easily access AAM’s numbers and match them to the draw numbers (publisher-supplied data),” he said. “This process is automatic.”

Louderback added that in addition to using the Media Intelligence Center, NSA Media also relies on an AAM data feed. “Sometimes we access AAM data this way every day,” she said.

Easy Data Access

Young explained that it’s easier to work with audited publications because the data meets specific industry standards.

“It streamlines communication with a vendor, since we have a mutual standard that we agree upon,” he said.

Media planners also save time by working with AAM audited publications since data from different publishers is presented in a standard format that is uniform and easy to use.

“Publications that aren’t audited often provide data in a format that isn’t very user-friendly,” Spahn added. “It might come to us in a scanned PDF and not in a way that’s easy to work with. AAM makes it easy for us to find the data we need quickly and download it into a format that we can incorporate directly into our database.”


The Importance of Validation

All three planners explained the necessity of having a third party verify publication data.

“It’s very important to us that our vendors comply with third-party audits. It’s a validation that what they’re reporting is accurate,” Louderback said. “Our company has always insisted that the publications we choose are audited.”

Often it’s the advertiser that requests an agency partner exclusively with publications that undergo a third-party audit as a way to ensure a campaign meets expectations and ad spend is efficient.

“Our clients expect it, so we encourage publications to have third-party audits,” Spahn said. “If the circulation numbers are inflated and our inserts aren’t reaching the homes they’re supposed to reach, that’s wasted expense. When a publication is audited, we have confidence in the numbers.”

Young added that while his agency accesses data from a variety of sources, he has greater confidence in AAM-verified data. “AAM is the source of circulation data that has the most authenticity because AAM has the most rigorous approach,” Young said. “It’s the top format out there and preferably the one we want our vendors to use.”

Did you know that AAM clients get access to dozens of educational tools and resources to help them reach media buyers and advertisers? Discover everything your company gets when you partner with AAM.

The Alliance for Audited Media powers transparency and collaboration between North America’s leading media professionals. AAM is the industry’s recognized leader in cross-media verification with unparalleled expertise across all brand platforms including web, mobile, email and print. More than 4,000 publishers, advertisers, agencies and technology vendors depend on AAM’s data-driven insights, technology certification audits and information services to transact with trust. To learn how AAM brings trust and transparency to today’s media ecosystem, visit

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