COVID-19 accommodations for news media audits and reporting

FAQs on the impact of COVID-19 on AAM reporting.

What is AAM doing to help the news media industry?

AAM recently announced a new initiative to modernize the news media audit and reporting process by offering more intuitive guidance and flexibility resulting in a less time-consuming audit for publishers while still preserving valuable planning data for media planners. The changes—developed with key industry leaders and with full support of the AAM board of directors—simplifies AAM rules, streamlines reports and eliminates extraneous data and requirements. Some of the highlights include:

  • Reinvent the audit by shifting away from a defined audit period to one focused on intermittent testing to provide continued assurance while giving news media staff additional flexibility and time savings.
  • Prioritizing U.S. news media ZIP code data by continuing to report information quarterly while reducing full data filing to twice a year.
  • Collaborating with clients to submit data and offering data modeling for twice-yearly statements.
  • Streamlining AAM reports by consolidating nonpaid circulation in the U.S. and digital circulation subcategories.
  • Opening access to nonpaid audits by using technology to replace in-field testing, making audits more cost-effective for publishers, and encouraging participation to increase buyer investment opportunities.

The full set of news media simplifications will be in effect with the March 2021 filing period, which coincides with the extension of the COVID-19 accommodations outlined below. You can learn more about these changes by visiting our resources hub.


If we have omitted any weeks or months during the filing of the March 2020 quarterly report or September news media statement, how will that impact the audit?

The audit will cover the 12 or 24-month period, depending on your audit cycle. The audit report will also include an explanation that the circulation data was excluded from the report due to COVID-19.


If I am unable to provide net circulation for my omitted days, will the filing tool still allow me to omit the days from my circulation averages?

Yes, the date will appear under omitted days and the phrasing will be adjusted to reflect the absence of the circulation data.


If I serve qualified targeted circulation using our main paper, not an affiliated publication, can we curtail the editorial content to control costs?

Yes, provided the basic identity of your newspaper is maintained, the editorial content may be modified. The applicable AAM reports will need to contain an explanation of the situation.


For NIE programs, many of the affidavits were to be collected at the end of the 2019-20 school year to confirm classroom usage. With many school districts ending the school year early or using remote learning into the 2020-21 school year, can we get an exception to obtaining affidavits for our NIE program?

Yes. For audit purposes, please maintain the original order, any affidavits obtained during the school year, and any other documentation that may be available regarding the school district’s remote learning or early closure mandate.


My newspaper has received requests for access to digital NIE copies from teachers and students in districts that have implemented hybrid or remote learning for the 2020-21 school year. Can I provide these copies and claim them as qualified circulation?

Yes. For those school districts that have moved to hybrid or remote learning models, teachers and students may specifically request digital service. Those copies may be reported as qualified educational copies. Since these copies were ordered and delivered during the pandemic, please maintain documentation showing the school district’s hybrid or remote learning model, teacher or student request, and proof of usage (affidavit). Once the normal school year resumes, the NIE program should return to its typical format.


If I extend past the 90 days allowance for arrears, I’ll eventually be over the 4% allowance. Will I have to adjust for this overage, or will an exception be granted due to the impact of the coronavirus?
Newspapers that exceed the 4% allowance due to service of grace copies beyond the 90-day threshold during the coronavirus pandemic can claim all copies as paid circulation. When the bad debt is recognized as part of the normal accounting cycles, you may need to modify the 4% disclosure to reflect the impact of the coronavirus in future reports.

Beginning in September 2020, the 4% allowance will no longer be calculated or reported as part of our news media audit and reporting simplification initiative. Learn more in our resources hub.


For ZIP code reporting, if a newspaper typically selects a date from the end of the reporting period, can other dates be selected? If my system does not allow selecting past dates, can the analysis be projected for a “normal” day(s)?
Yes, newspapers can select any representative day within the reporting period or project the analysis based on a “normal” day’s distribution.


We would like to serve copies to nursing homes or assisted living facilities in the area. Where is that circulation reported?
Copies served to nursing homes and assisted living facilities are reported as verified home delivery. Beginning in September 2020, the circulation will be reported as qualified public access.


Currently, AAM allows 10 days to be omitted from circulation averages. Will that be expanded?
Yes. Beginning March 9, 2020, and continuing through the end of March 2021, publishers may omit any day from circulation averages provided there is a 5% variance from the preceding typical day. Any omitted days during this period will not apply to the 10-day limit.


Can news media organizations serve grace copies beyond the 90-day limit and beyond the 4% threshold?
Yes. We understand implications of the coronavirus may impact your ability to effectively work expiring subscriptions and renewals in a timely manner. Beginning March 9, 2020, through March 30, 2021, the 90-day and 4% limits on grace and post-expire copies is suspended so that copies served on qualifying orders and subscriptions may count as paid circulation.

Beginning in September 2020, the 4% allowance will no longer be calculated or reported as part of our news media audit and reporting simplification initiative. Learn more in our resources hub.


Many employees are now working from home and are unable to access their print employee copies. Can we serve digital copies to these individuals?
Yes, please serve remote employees' digital copies. These copies may be claimed as qualified circulation—employee copies.


Can I substitute digital copies to print subscribers?
Yes. We understand that production departments and delivery forces may be overwhelmed by the coronavirus and are unable to deliver print copies to paid subscribers. Digital copies may be served as replacements for print paid subscriptions provided the publisher maintains records showing the subscriber was notified of the conversion and is able to access the digital copy. If subscribers decline the digital service, they must be excluded from the circulation claims. Once normal business resumes, the subscription must revert to print.


If you have any other questions or concerns regarding Covid-19's impact on your audit or reporting, please contact us.