Digital Circulation by ZIP Now an Option for Newspapers on AAM Reports

December 13, 2023



As the media industry adapts and innovates, so do AAM’s rules and reporting to meet the changing needs of publishers and media buyers.

AAM’s board recently approved a rule change giving U.S. newspapers the option to report digital circulation by ZIP code, effective with the September 2023 reporting period.

Here’s an overview of the change, why it happened and how it impacts media buys.


What changed?

U.S. newspapers have reported digital circulation with AAM for nearly 20 years. Providing digital circulation by ZIP code lets publishers give advertisers more granular data about who’s reading these editions. ZIP code reporting for digital editions is based on the subscriber’s home or billing address. If this information isn’t known, it’s shown in aggregate at the end of the ZIP code analysis on the report.


How did the change come about?

In the past, when publishers sold combined print and digital subscriptions, print had to be offered separately, and digital editions were incrementally priced. As digital circulation grew, AAM’s rules were modified to allow publishers to sell combined print and digital subscriptions without the incremental pricing requirement. These rule changes became even more important as some publishers used digital editions exclusively on days when the newspaper wasn’t printed.

As advertisers began to place more digital run of press (ROP) ads, buyers began requesting digital circulation data by ZIP code.

“The idea behind the change was to give newspapers the option to report data that would help advertisers make more informed digital media buying decisions,” said Ken Shultz, AAM’s senior vice president of auditing. “This change gives publishers the opportunity to show exactly where in the market those digital editions are going.”


How is digital circulation counted?

There are some nuances to how digital editions are counted. If a digital subscription is bundled with print, the digital copy is counted as paid circulation on the same day a print edition is available only if the subscriber accesses the digital copy. If a print edition isn’t available, the digital edition counts regardless of whether it is accessed. For digital-only subscriptions, the qualification is based on payment, not access.


What’s the difference between digital replica and nonreplica?

Digital replica represents a digital edition that is consistent in character and editorial content with the print edition. It is typically delivered as a PDF or formatted for an e-reader. While it may contain additional or updated editorial content, it needs to contain the ROP advertising as the print edition.

Digital nonreplica is a digital edition that is consistent in character and editorial content with the print edition. Content accessed via a restricted access website is one example of digital nonreplica.


New ZIP code data is available quarterly in AAM’s Media Intelligence Center. Did you know that all AAM clients receive complimentary access to AAM’s Media Intelligence Center? For access, complete this quick form.


Topics: Data, News Media, Reporting

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