Texas Monthly was one of the first participants in AAM’s Digital Publisher Audit, a third-party audit solution that identifies publishers who have taken steps to create quality advertising environments and deliver human audiences.
In a recent interview, Robert Davila, vice president of audience development and research at Texas Monthly, shared what Texas Monthly advertisers are looking for, how their digital audience is growing, and the role of AAM’s Digital Publisher Audit in bringing the two together.
- Advertisers Want Engagement Across All Platforms
“The biggest request we’re seeing from advertisers in RFPs is engagement,” explained Davila. “When they’re deciding to advertise on our website, they’re looking at the engagement of our audience and for topics they can align with. It’s the same thread across all platforms—digital, print and events. They want to align with the content that speaks to their desired audience and audiences that Texas Monthly easily captures. "
Davila pointed to editorial content like Texas Monthly’s top BBQ restaurants in the state as an area of the Texas Monthly website that has received significant audience engagement and attracted advertisers. Texas Monthly’s in-house creative team, TM Studio, has also worked directly with advertisers to create native campaigns that aligned with its content, such as a sponsored video series with Cadillac where an influencer drove around Texas in a Cadillac and interviewed various chefs.
- Digital Continues to Grow and Advertisers Follow
In a challenging print environment, Texas Monthly made a concerted effort to focus on digital growth and attract new advertisers with its digital content.
“Year-over-year, our website user base has grown about 41%,” said Davila. “Advertisers are coming to Texas Monthly for a digital presence alone. Some are doing multiplatform—including print, website, events, social, and more. We love those! It’s so nice to work on a campaign across different channels.”
- Digital Publisher Audits Help Achieve and Verify Growth
“A couple of years ago, we realized that we weren’t where we wanted to be with the size of our website audience and we needed to grow,” said Davila. “Texas Monthly’s print product has been audited by AAM for a long time, so it was a natural progression for us to look to AAM when we were serious about growing our digital properties. Just like the print side, if you’re out there selling an audience, you need to have third-party verification.”
As its digital products grew, so did its audience, and Texas Monthly knew it needed a way to prove website traffic was human traffic. Many of Texas Monthly’s niche stories receive huge surges of traffic, including a recent article highlighting the challenges wedding photographers face in the era of COVID. The story was picked up by many different national websites and podcasts, and traffic spiked. The monitoring that occurs with AAM’s Digital Publisher Audit verified that the increase in traffic was due to human viewing and not bots.
- Gather a Team for a Successful Audit
The first part of AAM’s Digital Publisher Audit is a business process review where auditors gather information and perform an in-depth review of the publisher’s business practices to understand how the site is monetized and assess the level of risk. The audit also includes ongoing monitoring of site traffic.
The process of the Digital Publisher Audit has been fairly easy. I handed over the code to our technology development team. And for the rest of the review, I involved two or three other people just to gather all the information. Once you’ve gone through it, it is a set and forget process.
Robert Davila, Texas Monthly
“With a print audit, every six months we’re compiling the same documentation and information, but the Digital Publisher Audit is much easier. Once the initial process is over, I hear from the AAM team if there is an anomaly in our traffic. Most of those swings in traffic have been due to really specific story topics — such as the COVID wedding photographer story — getting a huge amount of attention.”
- Audits Back Up Audience
Texas Monthly has big plans to continue growing its digital audience from about 2.5 million to 5 million, and much of that growth will be in platforms such as video and podcasts. As the team works to achieve this goal, AAM’s audits will play an important role in securing future advertising revenue.
A big part of our growth is in digital. We’ve grown, but we’re still not where we want to be. Having the AAM Digital Publisher Audit as a backup to verify our audience is going to be more and more helpful as our digital presence grows.
Robert Davila, Texas Monthly