NAA/AAM Circulation Subcommittee's Guide to Branded Editions

  1. Introduction
  2. Defining Branded Editions
  3. Types and Options
  4. Reporting
  5. For the Audit
  6. Case Studies
  7. Do's & Don'ts
  8. Publisher's Statements vs. CMRs
  9. Industry Q&A
  10. Resources and Contacts
  11. Conclusion


Branded Editions – Another Arrow in the Audience Quiver

Steve Wagenlander, NAA/AAM Circulation Subcommittee Communications Team

Welcome to the second of three guides to the recent Alliance for Audited Media rule changes. Last fall, under the leadership of Jeff Hartley, vice president of circulation at Morris Publishing Group, the NAA/AAM Circulation Subcommittee communications team partnered with AAM to publish a comprehensive guide to digital editions. The guide was so well received by newspaper executives at papers of all sizes, our team decided to use the same blueprint to review branded editions. No sooner than the ink dries on this publication, our team will get to work on the final installment of our trilogy. Look for the verified circulation guide in the spring.

As a member of the NAA/AAM Circulation Subcommittee, I have been privy to “watching the sausage get made” in regard to the recent AAM rule changes. Developing the intent and language of the new rules was not always pretty, but in the end, the results were “tasty” rule changes that benefit newspapers’ go-to-market strategies. These rule changes allow AAM members the flexibility to more effectively tell advertisers about the reach of our products. From community newspapers to Sunday Select products, branded editions are a prime example of this flexibility.

Branded editions have some different rules and qualifications than AAM-member newspapers, and this guide will help explain those differences with examples and bring perspectives to answer the most common questions. In the first section, we detail the AAM rules to qualify branded editions. This section also includes a video with AAM’s Ken Shultz, who shares tips for a smooth verified branded edition audit. The second, and perhaps most valuable, section provides real-world examples of how newspapers of all sizes are using the branded editions. We conclude the guide with additional resources, including the do’s and don’ts of branded editions and an interview with NSA Media’s Karin Kasper, who provides the agency perspective on the concept of branded editions.

On behalf of Jim Lamm, Linnie Pride and Jeff Hartley, I hope you find the information contained in this guide beneficial. If you have any questions regarding branded editions, feel free to contact any of the sources contained on the contacts page of this guide.

Steve Wagenlander is director of audience development at The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C. He can be reached at 843-937-5746.

Defining Branded Editions

When developing your branded edition programs, reference Rule C 2.4 Separate Editions, which governs separate editions of your newspaper such as branded and digital editions.

This rule defines branded editions and explains what is necessary to qualify branded editions as part of your total average circulation. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the rule, its requirements and tips to prepare for your audit.

Let’s start with a closer look at how branded editions are defined:

Tip: If a publication does not meet the branded edition requirements, newspapers may optionally report its circulation on AAM’s Consolidated Media Report (CMR).

Branded editions are separate publications of an AAM-member newspaper that have a different name but maintain a consistent identity.

To qualify as a branded edition, the publication must:

  • Publish at least weekly
  • Represent itself as a newspaper, not as a magazine or a newsletter, for example
  • Contain editorial content or requested by the consumer
  • Publish on the same paper-stock (e.g. newsprint) as the member publication
  • Be identified as “An edition of” AAM member name

Tip: Some examples that do not qualify as branded editions include publications that are: primarily classified ads, dedicated to one topic, geographic editions, single-topic mobile apps (i.e., recipes or a sports team)

If a publication doesn’t have any editorial content, it may still qualify as a branded edition. A publication without editorial content that primarily delivers freestanding inserts, such as Sunday Select or TMC products, may still qualify as branded circulation if the consumer requests the product. 



Types and Options

Tip: For examples of how newspapers across the country designed each of these types of branded editions, see the case study section.

Branded editions are a result of the industry embracing new audiences and transforming newspaper products. Readers crave targeted information and advertisers want to reach these targeted consumers. By including branded editions on AAM reports, publishers can include niche and community-specific products as part of their total media brand.

Types of Branded Editions

There are several different types of branded editions, such as:

  • Alternative language
  • Commuter or audience-focused
  • Community
  • Sunday Select or TMC products

Options for Branded Editions: Paid & Verified, Print & Digital

Branded editions have varied distribution methods and can qualify as either paid or verified. The rules that apply to print and digital main editions also apply to branded editions. As a reminder:

  • Paid branded editions can be either:
    • Individually paid circulation that is ordered and paid for by an individual for at least one cent, net of considerations.
    • Business/traveler paid circulation that is ordered and paid for by a hotel for its guests or a business for designated employees.

  • Verified branded editions are subject to the same rulesas verified main editions. Verified branded editions can be:
    • Requested by individuals (required if no editorial content exists in the branded edition)
    • Targeted to residences
    • Delivered to schools or universities
    • Distributed at businesses for their customers

  • Digital Branded Editions
    Branded editions can be print or digital, and the rules for digital branded editions are very similar to the rules for the member newspaper’s digital editions.
    • The edition’s access must be restricted. (For example, a public website does not qualify.)
    • Replica editions are consistent in editorial and advertising content with the print edition, but it may contain updated reporting. (A single-subject mobile app does not qualify as a branded edition.)

Branded Edition Examples

Here are some examples of publications that qualify as branded editions:

Example 1branded

This branded edition qualifies because it is published daily, contains editorial content, and is identified as “An edition of Daily News.”

Example 2branded

This edition meets the branded edition qualifications because it is published at least weekly, is identified correctly as an edition, and presents itself as a newspaper with editorial content.

Example 3branded

This edition does not contain editorial content, but it qualifies as a branded edition because it delivers FSIs and consumers opt-in to receive it.


Tip: Geographic editions have the same name as the main edition but have a geographic location noted in the masthead. These are not branded editions and are counted as part of the primary newspaper’s total average circulation.

One of the main goals of the new branded edition rules was to provide full transparency in AAM reports. For traditional AAM members, branded editions are included and detailed as part of the total average circulation number.

In this section, we’ll explain where branded editions are found on traditional AAM reports as well as for Community Newspaper Audit members.


Traditional Audits

For newspapers that undergo typical (not CNA) audits, branded editions are reported separately in publisher’s statements and audit reports. If the circulation for all of your branded editions is less than 2,000 copies per issue and less than 3 percent of the total average circulation, branded editions do not need to be reported separately.


Branded editions are included in the topline “Total Average Circulation” column as well as in a separate column describing the combined number of branded editions under “Branded Editions (Print and Digital).”

Publisher's Statements and Audit Reports

Branded editions are broken out in the executive summary and in the publishing plans box.

Reporting in subsequent paragraphs begins with the primary newspaper’s data and is followed by any and all branded editions. Each branded edition is reported in its own paragraph by paid and verified circulation for its print and digital delivery.

The audit report’s paragraph 3 details branded editions by county and ZIP code.

Community Newspaper Audit Members

Community Newspaper Audit, or CNA, members may have branded editions but they are not broken out from the main edition. Branded edition circulation is reported in the CNA audit report with the primary newspaper’s circulation in paragraph 1 and in paragraph 3 by ZIP code.

CNA newspapers have the option to report branded editions on a Statement Plus for an incremental fee.

For the Audit

Tip: There is an additional cost to add branded editions to your AAM reports. Branded editions are additional circulation, which translates to additional audit effort. The volume of eligible circulation and distribution methods both contribute to your cost estimate.

As a general rule, you need to maintain the same type of records for branded circulation as you do for your member-newspapers’ circulation, whether print, digital, paid or verified. If you need a refresher on the documents and recordkeeping needed for your audit, information is available on AAM’s website.

But for audits of verified, home delivery - requested circulation, the AAM auditor will look for some additional information.

Newspapers may use any of the following channels to solicit requests for verified home delivery – requested circulation:

  • Internet
  • Email
  • Telemarketing
  • Mail

For subscribers who have requested to receive the branded edition, publishers must maintain documentation confirming the request activity:

  • Request for
  • Date of the request
  • Name of the requestor
  • Address of the requestor
  • Phone number of the requestor
  • Email address of the requestor

In addition, newspapers should maintain the following general information pertaining to all branded edition distribution:

  • Issue-by-issue circulation ledger identifying the volume of copies distributed.
  • Address-specific route lists identifying the volume and location of copies distributed. These should match the issue-by-issue circulation ledger.
  • Analysis of distribution by town, county or ZIP code for the analyzed issue.

See section (a) of Rule C 3.3 Other Verified Distribution for more on qualifying verified home delivery – requested circulation.

In this video, AAM’s Ken Shultz, senior vice president of audit services and staff liaison to the NAA/AAM Circulation Subcommittee, shares his tips for a smooth branded edition audit.

Nonpaid Newspaper Audits

If a publication doesn’t meet the branded edition qualifications, AAM also offers audits of nonpaid newspapers owned or operated by a member newspaper. The nonpaid audit begins with AAM’s receipt of your print or digital recipient file. Depending on recordkeeping practices, this may be all that is needed to choose a sample and begin confirming the actual delivery.


In the next section, we’ll hear the stories of how newspapers across the country designed their branded edition strategies.

Case Studies

Chicago Sun-Times Uses Branded Editions to Reinforce Its Single Brand Strategy

With 39 branded edition newspapers and a 380-page audit report, the Chicago Sun-Times may be on the extreme end of AAM-member newspapers reporting branded editions. But Courtney Price, vice president of audience development at Sun-Times Media explains the company had a very specific vision when it created its branded edition strategy.

How the Sun-Times Decided on Branded

When AAM first introduced the Consolidated Media Report and branded editions, Sun-Times Media took the opportunity to reassess their position in the market and develop a new strategy and a new name—CRWN—Chicago Region-Wide Network.

“We’ve always had these community publications within the Chicago market,” explained Price “ and there was little awareness that they were associated with the Sun-Times and part of Sun-Times Media. We wanted a way to bring a greater understanding of Sun-Times Media to the marketplace. By bringing all of our publications under the Sun-Times mother brand, we did just that. This allowed us to change our marketing strategy and communicate one strong network of brands to the advertising community as opposed to a group of 40 individual newspapers.”

And advertiser response to the rebranding was positive.

“We have seen our advertising revenues increase dramatically in the last year,” said Price. “Rebranding ourselves as CRWN at the same time really emphasized that we were this broader network and we were perceived as a new company when we were really the same company. It gave us the opportunity to relaunch ourselves.”

With an enthusiastic response from advertisers, Price next set out to educate internal customers on the new AAM audit and how to use it.

“The bigger issue was training our internal folks since we now have one large audit report instead of individual reports for each publication,” said Price. “There was some training required, that is absolutely something I would encourage any company considering doing this. Plan seriously how you’re going to communicate to the external market and how you’re going to communicate to your internal staff because it was a big change for our company from having individual brands. We still have those individual brands, but the training challenge was to explain to the advertising sales team how to sell the large brand—the Chicago Sun-Times—and how we’re audited now and what that looks like.

“There was a lot of training involved, the audit looked totally different. Technically, things weren’t really changing but the perception was that there was a lot of change happening.”

Just like the Star-Telegram, the Chicago Sun-Times reports branded editions on its publisher’s statements and audit reports and then takes it a step further and uses AAM’s flexible Consolidated Media Report.

“We look at the CMR and branded editions as very different things,” explained Price. “We implemented the CMR first and we looked at it as a marketing tool to help communicate to our advertisers the depth and breadth of our print and digital market reach. We do have a complex set of newspapers and publications so the CMR allowed us to create our own reporting tool with the backing of AAM. This helps our internal folks sell better and gives our advertisers a greater understanding and awareness of our market coverage.

“And then the branded editions came and they gave us the opportunity to more formally reinforce through our AAM reports that we were a network of multiple publications, 40 paid publications in the Chicago market. I look at it as an extension of the CMR, a more formal extension because the AAM audit and publisher’s statement now reflect that branded edition strategy.”

Price says the important message is not whether to choose branded editions or a CMR, the important thing is to be audited then choose the report that best fits your strategy.

“We’re a big believer that all newspapers should be AAM-audited, anything where you’re selling advertising should be audited,” she emphasized. “It just reinforces the strength and validity of our industry. We all feel very strongly about being straightforward about the amount of circulation we have and how many customers we reach. As a company, we are very strong supporters that all newspapers should be AAM audited.”


Fort Worth Star-Telegram Reaches Spanish Audience With Targeted Branded Edition

With a weekday circulation topping 136,000, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reaches a broad audience in its market but there was one audience that deserved a paper all its own—Spanish-language speakers. By creating La Estrella En Casa, the Star-Telegram expanded its brand and reach in the greater Fort Worth area. Dolan Stidom, vice president of circulation for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, explains how the newspaper settled on its branded edition strategy and how the audit for a verified, targeted branded edition differs from that of a traditionally paid newspaper.

How the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Decided on Branded

La Estrella En Casa loosely translates to “the star in home,” an apt name for a newspaper that is delivered each Saturday into the homes of nearly 80,000 Spanish-language speakers. Another 20,000 are distributed to businesses around the greater Fort Worth area.

“People are expecting it and they want it—just like the paid newspaper,” explained Stidom. “If subscribers don’t receive it, we get a phone call because the content, the inserts, the advertisements all provide a great value to the community.”

When the Star-Telegram issued its first Consolidated Media Report in September 2009, La Estrella En Casa was featured prominently on the report. So when AAM introduced branded editions in October 2010, it was only logical to include La Estrella En Casa on the newspaper’s publisher’s statement as well.

“If you’re having a product audited for the CMR, why wouldn’t you want to have it in branded?” asked Stidom. “The majority of the expense is in having it audited, regardless if it is on the CMR or your regular audit.”

Inclusion of La Estrella En Casa on Star-Telegram’s CMR, publisher’s statements and audit reports certainly has caught the attention of advertisers.

“It makes it look new and fresh,” said Stidom. “We just finished one of the best advertising months we’ve ever had. An AAM audit adds credibility to the distribution of the product itself, which advertisers like. They like that comfort, that reassurance that this is a good quality product. We’re willing to invest our resources to make sure it is an audited product for their benefit. It gives advertisers something to hang their hat on.”

Satisfying the Audit Requirements for Verified Branded Editions

The audit of a targeted verified newspaper is very different from that of a newspaper with paid subscribers and Stidom thinks other newspapers should know the difference.

With a verified, targeted newspaper, AAM auditors have to actually see the newspaper being delivered to the homes. If the auditors don’t see the newspaper at the home, they must visit the house and speak to the residents. Not all recipients are eager to open the doors and speak to an AAM auditor.

"The audit process can be difficult. We have to make sure the AAM auditor sees the paper delivered to the targeted households,” said Stidom. “Some of our Hispanic readers are not always willing talk. So it’s a challenge. But we work through the issues. We take pictures and we have ongoing verification to help us monitor everything.”

Stidom recommends newspapers take some time and plan out when to begin reporting branded editions on their AAM statements.

“The timing of adding a branded edition is important,” he emphasized. “If you add it in the middle of your annual audit, it’s an annual average and you may not get the full benefit of the full year. Then there are some newspapers that have made the decision to just roll out a little bit at a time so they can show they are adding to their circulation. AAM can note all that on your report, but I’m not sure everyone reads all the disclaimers.”

Contact Information
Dolan Stidom, Vice President, Circulation


Kingsport Times-News Uses ‘Sunday Stories’ to Reach Target Market

The Kingsport Times-News, with a Sunday circulation of approximately 43,000, covers the Tri-Cities region of northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia. In addition to its core print and digital replica editions, the newspaper distributes Sunday Stories, a branded edition distributed weekly. Glen Tabor, circulation director, explains how AAM’s new rules affected the paper’s branded edition strategy.

How the Times-News Decided on Branded Editions

In addition to Kingsport, smaller towns Churchill and Mount Carmel form an eight-mile radius of consumers who advertisers want to target. A few years ago, the Kingsport Times-News created a core-market product to reach nonsubscribers in that area. The first iteration of the product was simply a vehicle to deliver inserts.

“Before, it was a jacket with classifieds that we used to deliver our inserts. But it has evolved into what I think is a nice product, a nice supplemental newspaper,” Tabor said.

This product grew into Sunday Stories, the branded edition included on the Times-News’ AAM reports. When AAM approved the rules for branded editions in 2010, the Times-News wanted to make sure Sunday Stories qualified. The edition now contains editorial content, mostly shortened stories about local businesses from the full Sunday edition.

“We wanted to be sure that we met the requirements for a branded edition in addition to making it something that people would request versus something that they may or may not pick up on Sunday,” Tabor said. “It’s becoming a well-read product. It’s a nice-looking product. Of course, it’s free distribution, but readers are requesting it.”

Using Branded Editions Under the New Rules

More than 5,000 editions of Sunday Stories are distributed to households every week. The product is free, so any household that wants to receive the edition must request it to qualify as verified circulation.

“These are folks that don’t want to pay for the paper, but they do want some sort of advertising supplement. And with the way things are changing in this environment, we’re trying to adapt. It’s not the complete paper, but its part of the paper,” Tabor said.

The product was initially developed with advertisers in mind. But with a few changes, Sunday Stories qualifies under the new branded edition rules. Advertisers can also see that these editions are requested and backed with an AAM audit.

Sunday Stories became a more solid product. It’s forced us to make something we already had more appealing, and the advertisers see that this is a viable product for their advertising. We’ve tried to adapt to the market, and it’s pushed us to develop something wanted by everybody.”

The newspaper didn’t have to make significant changes to its record-keeping processes to comply with the new rules. Branded edition requests are tracked similar to how paid subscribers are tracked. The Times-News typically markets the full subscription, but Sunday Stories serves as another option.

“If we have someone who stops their subscription because they can’t afford the paper, we offer this product and explain that although it’s not the complete paper, it does offer some access to the paper and the advertiser inserts every Sunday.”

Tabor warned that there were challenging aspects developing Sunday Stories into a branded edition.

“It was a challenge developing the product and getting it up and running, particularly when you know you’re not going to have any revenue from a circulation standpoint. But it’s valuable for the company. So the bottom line is that it’s effective for us.”

Contact Information
Glen Tabor, Circulation Director


Branded Edition Rules Allow for More Transparency for the Press-Register

The Press-Register in Mobile, Ala. reaches its audience through several products, including, a glossy lifestyle magazine distributed every other week, an entertainment guide, and the branded edition Mississippi Press. Gary Raskett, vice president of circulation, explains how the Mississippi Press became a branded edition.

How the Press-Register Decided on Branded

The Mississippi Press held its own AAM newspaper membership until 2008, when it was brought in as the Mississippi edition of the Press-Register. From that time until AAM implemented the rules for branded editions, advertisers were not able to get a clear picture of the Mississippi Press’ circulation because both newspapers were included together in one circulation.

FrontpagesmississippiThere are differences between the audiences of the Press-Register and the Mississippi Press that are important to recognize, both for readers and advertisers. The AAM branded edition rules helped solve some of those issues by maintaining separate identities for each newspaper.

“Up until the rules for branded editions, an advertiser could look through an AAM report and based on ZIP code and the way the states are broken down, kind of get a sense of what the Mississippi Press looked like. But with the way the reporting is now, it puts it in a separate place, which is beautiful for us because we’re able to identify it separately or together with the Press-Register.

“The Mississippi Press maintains its identity as a branded edition of the Press-Register. But at the same time, for full-run advertisers who want to reach the Mississippi and Alabama markets, it’s perfect.”

Using Branded Editions Under the New Rules

Newspaper staff didn’t need to implement new processes or recordkeeping to qualify the Mississippi Press as a branded edition because their circulation management systems already tracked both newspapers. The biggest change came for the added flexibility for the newspapers’ sales staff.

“From our sales staff’s standpoint, they love it,” Raskett said. “The people who work out of the Mississippi advertising bureau can literally show their advertisers where the Mississippi Press’ circulation is broken out. With the branded edition identified separately on the audit report, it adds more to the advertising department’s toolkit so that they’re able to promote more zoned advertising to that area.”

Breaking out the two editions on AAM reports was something that needed to be done, and the creation of the branded edition category happened at the right time for the Press-Register.

“As long as it was the Mississippi edition of the Mobile newspaper, there was no identity for the Mississippi Press that could be documented. Now it’s there. From the Mississippi advertisers’ standpoint, it shows we’re paying attention to them separately.”

Contact Information
Gary Raskett, Vice President of Circulation


The Treasure Coast News/Press-Tribune’s History of Branded Editions

The Treasure Coast News/Press-Tribune in Florida has perhaps one of the most unique branded edition stories in that the branded editions essentially make up the entire newspaper brand. Don Hornbeck, director of circulation sales, explains.

How the Treasure Coast News/Press-Tribune Decided on Branded

The Treasure Coast market consists of three consecutive counties along Florida’s coast, just north of Palm Beach. Originally, three independently owned newspapers covered this area. Scripps purchased The Stuart News in 1965 and followed by purchasing The Indian River Press Journal in 1996 and the St. Lucie News Tribune in 2000.

“The residents here all relate to living along the Treasure Coast,” Hornbeck said. “But they’re also used to having the newspaper that they’ve had for 100 years. Scripps didn’t want to change the masthead of the three local newspapers.”

In 2003, AAM approved the name “The Treasure Coast News/Press-Tribune.” Advertisers were most interested in buying ads in particular ZIP codes and many of the ZIP codes between the three products overlapped.

“I think we’re the only newspaper in the country where our AAM member name is The Treasure Coast News/Press-Tribune, and all three of our branded editions have that logo on the masthead ‘as an edition of.’ But The Treasure Coast News/Press-Tribune doesn’t exist as a newspaper. It’s been that way ever since 2003 when AAM approved us to go down that road,” he said.

Using and Marketing Branded Editions

Today, the three newspapers share a printing facility and much of the editorial content, although local stories are targeted to each publication. Each edition is also priced equally and sold with the same offers.

“People here know us as Scripps Treasure Coast newspapers, and that’s how we go to market,” Hornbeck said.

When the new rules for branded editions took effect in October 2010, the newspaper had to revise its recordkeeping systems.

“In our circulation systems, we were set up as one publication. Prior to this rule change, our AAM reporting was done by ZIP code and NDM and ONDM. So in our case, we created a new massive spreadsheet to keep everything organized,” he said.

Each branded edition also offers a digital edition. Most are Newspaper in Education e-editions, but a few subscribers pay 99 cents per week to access the digital replica edition. Print subscribers also have free access to the e-edition.

“Our e-edition subscribers really have access to all three of our editions, but we only count one as paid,” Hornbeck said. “There’s a drop down menu where they can choose which one to read.”

Hornbeck said that although the newspapers are often marketed as the Treasure Coast Newspapers to advertisers, readers still value their separately identified newspapers.

“We’re unique in that our three branded editions have been here for 100 years. Over the years, we thought about going to one masthead. But the communities we serve appreciate having their own local identity on the front page of the paper, even though they know we’re Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, even though they know there’s a lot of common content.”

Contact Information
Don Hornbeck, Director, Circulation Sales

Do's & Don'ts

Tips for Developing Your Branded Edition Programs

A list of tips from the previous sections to help qualify your branded edition programs:


  • Identify your branded edition as “An edition of ‘AAM member name’” in the masthead.

  • Publish at least weekly and on the same newsprint as the member publication.

  • For verified requested home delivery, keep documentation that confirms the date of request and the requestor’s name, address, phone number and email address.

  • If a branded edition doesn’t contain editorial content, it must be a vehicle for the delivery of inserts and the consumer must request it. See the qualification requirements for verified, requested circulation.

  • As a general rule, maintain the same type of records for branded circulation as you do for your member-newspapers’ circulation, whether print, digital, paid or verified.

  • Keep in contact with your Publisher Relations manager to review your branded programs, especially mock ups of the mastheads to ensure compliance of the branded edition with AAM Rule C 2.4 Separate Editions. Reviews are always free and confidential.

  • Consider a Consolidated Media Report if a publication does not meet the branded edition requirements. CMRs are optional standalone reports that may report a variety of print and digital products.


  • Qualify single-topic publications or apps as branded editions.

  • Plan to qualify a magazine or newsletter as a branded edition of a newspaper. Branded editions must be on the same paper stock as the main edition. Magazines and newsletters may be included on a Consolidated Media Report.

  • Count a free public access website as a digital branded edition. A digital edition’s access has to be restricted to qualify on AAM reports.

Publisher's Statements vs. CMRs

In several of our case study examples, participants mentioned they included branded editions on AAM publisher’s statements, audit reports and Consolidated Media Reports. Here’s a quick chart to help you decipher the different rules and requirements for each reporting vehicle.

  Publisher's Statements/
Audit Reports
AAM audited x x
ZIP code data x x
Owned or operated by AAM Member x x
Open-access websites x x
Readership studies x x
Verified distribution x x
Editorial content or opt-in required x  
Consistent logotype and phrasing "Edition of" x  
Must have a print foundation x  
Must be a newspaper x  
Free distribution   x
Single-topic apps or publication   x
Broadcast data   x
Text alerts   x
E-newsletters   x
Social media   x
Co-branded products   x

Industry Q&A

NSA Media’s Karin Kasper

As NSA Media’s vice president of activation services, Karin Kasper helps lead one of the top buyers of newspaper media in the U.S. And as a member of AAM’s Newspaper Buyers’ Advisory Committee, Kasper has a unique insight into the background of the branded edition rules. Kasper shared her thoughts on the importance of targeted publications, how NSA evaluates these products and how she views unaudited branded publications.

Steve Wagenlander: How do you evaluate branded edition data?
Karin Kasper: Media strategies begin with each client’s specific needs and the product evaluation evolves from there. Client needs and products vary by geography. What works in one area may differ in another based on the target audience and the product’s ability to effectively reach that audience.

SW: Do you evaluate branded edition data differently than data from the main AAM-member newspaper?
KK: We treat branded editions much the same as we do any other product in that we seek out those that best meet certain criteria including reach against the targeted audience, the day of distribution, subscriber/non-subscriber, audit verification, etc. One of our objectives is always to minimize duplication. So if we are looking to add coverage in a particular area, we will seek out those products that enhance the “effective reach,” which takes duplication into consideration.

SW: Did the AAM branded edition rules as of October 2010 affect your processes?
KK: One of the objectives of the new rules was to provide greater transparency to advertisers in regards to how multiple products roll up to a full run circulation number. This was accomplished through the reporting of additional information in a more granular manner. The importance we place on accurate data has not changed, but the granularity to which we use it has, adding some complexity to the process.

SW: Is it important for smaller community or commuter papers to be audited?
KK: We place a significant value in products that are audited, regardless of the product size or type, so yes it is very important. Every dollar our clients invest in media needs to be substantiated and the added level of verification received through an audit helps ensure the dollars were spent wisely. As larger newspapers have struggled to maintain circulation, we have incorporated more products into the mix, including community and commuter type newspapers. We are much less inclined to consider these products if they are not audited, so those that are not audited are missing opportunities.

SW: How do Sunday Select and similar opt-in programs help you reach your target audiences?
KK: Sunday Select and other opt-in programs provide us the opportunity to reach a desirable audience that is increasingly difficult to access through traditional paid print newspapers. Sunday Select readers are typically younger moms who are more budget-conscious and very comfortable with digital media for accessing the latest news, but still prefer the discovery aspect of paging through printed inserts on the weekend. Although the programs typically do not provide a large audience in any given market, they are targeted geographically in areas that are desirable to us based on demographics, retail sales opportunity and coverage need, which drives both sales and cost-efficiencies. We know that Sunday Select readers receive the ad packages solely for the advertising, so the response is very high.

SW: Why is it important to have these types of programs incorporated with other circulation information on AAM reports?
KK: The added level of security we receive through an audit helps ensure that we are maximizing our investments and minimizing waste. By incorporating Sunday Select into the reports, the transparency enables us to pick and choose where we want the added coverage and where we do not. While most Sunday Select-type products are built using very similar rules and strategies, there are some that are more desirable than others. Having them audited and incorporated into the AAM reports adds a level of confidence and ensures consistency market to market.

SW: How do you view newspapers that do not have branded-type editions audited?
KK: Products that are not audited are not viewed to be of the same level of quality as those that are audited, which can lead to being left off of a buy. There is concern when a product is not audited because there is no verification by a third party that information provided is accurate. If a newspaper is not willing to make the investment to have a product audited, it is likely that they may have taken some short cuts in other areas. Whether accurate or not, that is the perception.

Resources and Contacts

The following is a list of links and contact information if you would like to find out more about the branded edition programs and tips included in this guide.

AAM and NAA Resources

Sources of Examples Used in This Guide

Don Hornbeck, Circulation Sales Director, The Treasure Coast News/Press-Tribune

Gary Raskett, Vice President of Circulation, Press-Register

Courtney Price, Vice President of Audience Development, Chicago Sun-Times

Dolan Stidom, Vice President, Circulation, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Glen Tabor, Circulation Director, Kingsport Times-News

NAA/AAM Circulation Subcommittee Member Roster

Dan Schaub, SVP/Audience Development & Membership Services, The Sacramento Bee, Committee Chairman

Aaron Armand, Circulation Systems Manager, The Advocate, Capital City Press

James Boyd, Jr., Circulation Director, The Knoxville News Sentinel

Al Cupo, Vice President - Operations, SNA

Jeffrey DeLoach, Publisher, San Angelo Standard Times

James Galetano, Vice President/Circulation, Daily Herald

Antony George, Senior Manager, Circulation, Chicago Tribune

Sharon Gibson, Senior Director/Sales & Retention, Detroit Media Partnership

* Jeffrey Hartley, VP of Circulation Morris Publishing Group/Director of Circulation. The Augusta Chronicle

Steve Hesse, SVP/Circulation, MediaNews

Martha J. Hines, Circulation Director, The Grand Rapids Press

Helen S. Hoffman, Director/Circulation Sales, Gannett Newspaper Division

* James Lamm, Vice President/Circulation, The Charlotte Observer

Hugh McGarry, SVP, Sales & Marketing, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Courtney Price VP, Audience Development, Sun-Times News Group

* Linnie Pride, SVP, Circulation, Community Newspaper Holdings

Mark Quan, Circulation Director, The Virginian-Pilot

Valecia Quinn, Single Copy Director, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Joseph F. Salomone, Deputy Director AAM Compliance, Wall Street Journal

* Steve Wagenlander, Circulation Director, The Post and Courier

John Murray, VP of Audience Development, Newspaper Association of America
NAA Staff Liaison

Ken Shultz, SVP of Audit Service, Alliance for Audited Media
AAM Staff Liaison

* Member of NAA/AAM Circulation Subcommittee Communications Team


Branded Editions: Helping Tell the Complete Audience Story

Steve Wagenlander, NAA/AAM Circulation Subcommittee Communications TeamWagenlander

Historically, it has always been important to understand AAM rules and implement corresponding strategies to maximize growth. Nothing has changed today. In fact, I believe the recent changes have given newspapers more marketing flexibility than ever before.

The question is, is your newspaper taking full advantage of the flexibility created by the new rules?

As clearly demonstrated by the case studies in this guide, many newspapers are putting their best creative foot forward and leveraging new AAM rules to their advantage. Now, more than ever, it is important that newspapers use all the tools at their disposal to completely and effectively tell our advertising customers about the impressive marketing power of our products. Branded editions are simply another tool available to help us do exactly that.

As we have now learned, newspapers of all shapes and sizes are using both branded and digital editions to help articulate the strength of our audiences in verified, quantifiable terms. Later this spring, the communications team will release a similar guide on verified circulation and show how it too can help convey the reach of products.

Regardless of which arrows your newspaper chooses to pull from its “audience and reach” quiver, the most important thing is that you are at least reaching for an arrow. The new AAM rules have made it easier than ever to quantify the marketing power of our products. Make sure you are taking advantage of them.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this guide, feel free to reach out to your AAM Publisher Relations manager or any member of the NAA/AAM Circulation Subcommittee Communications team.

Contact Steve at

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