How Three Northern California Newspapers Cut Time Requirements, Costs with the Community Newspaper Audit Program

The Merced Sun-Star, Chowchilla News and Los Banos Enterprise joined AAM’s Community Newspaper Audit service when it launched in 2010. Maggie Divird, who manages circulation for all three newspapers, explains why.


The Merced Sun-Star is a daily paper with circulation of approximately 15,000, and nearby weeklies Los Banos Enterprise and Chowchilla News have circulations of approximately 3,500 and 1,600, respectively. All cover areas of northern California and are owned by The McClatchy Company.


The three newspapers have been members of AAM for years. The daily Sun-Star was audited annually, while the weeklies were audited every other year. Preparing for three audits at separate times caused additional work and time commitment for the circulation department.


AAM’s Community Newspaper Audit program is specifically designed for newspapers with total average circulation less than 25,000. The every-other-year audit is done off-site and has simplified audit and reporting requirements.


All three newspapers joined the CNA program at the same time and are now on the same audit cycle. “It’s great that instead of being audited every year, all three publications are audited every two years. It’s a lot more streamlined, and it keeps everything fresh in memory when you’re doing it for all three publications at the same time rather than every year,” Divird said.


With the needs of smaller, community newspapers in mind, the Community Newspaper Audit program was created to lower costs and simplify audit requirements for newspapers. To date, more than 300 U.S. newspapers participate in the program, including the Merced Sun-Star, Los Banos Enterprise and Chowchilla News.

“Price was one of the factors that led us to switch,” Divird said. “Price does matter when you’re smaller. If you can consolidate as much as possible and make it more efficient, the savings are an added bonus.”

For just $2,000 per year, CNA members receive the credibility that comes with an AAM audit, but with a few revisions to ensure a less intrusive, more simplified process. CNA publisher’s statements and audit reports are streamlined with simplified basic price and explanatory reporting. Reporting of premium, day-of-week or geographic market is not required. And all CNA audits are done from AAM’s headquarters, which was one of Divird’s favorite aspects of the program.

“We appreciated that the audits wouldn’t have to be done here in house, so it would be less disruptive to our daily operations,” Divird said. “Everything is still the same as far as what we have to provide for the audit, but we were able to do it over a period of time on our schedule. The pressure is obviously still there because it’s an audit, but we didn’t have the added pressure of having someone here and knowing you had to fit everything into three or four days.”

Making the switch to the CNA program was fairly simple, Divird said. They didn’t have to implement any new processes and they used the same reports as in the past. There was a slight learning curve for the first audit that was done remotely. But now that they have gone through two CNA audits, the process is smooth.

“The auditor this last time was great. We had one auditor for all three papers right from the get-go. That made it so much more streamlined. If there were things I had to do for all three papers, I was able to do them at the same time.”

The three newspapers work with local, regional and national advertisers, and one of the major advantages of the CNA program is being able to present them figures about each publication with the AAM-audited stamp of approval.

“There is much more relevance when you tell your advertisers you have AAM-audited circulation. It’s a name that advertisers recognize and of course we want that. We want to be able to prove to our advertisers that we’re doing everything possible to keep the integrity of our newspapers intact. That’s not something we want to skip, even though everyone is trying to save money, it’s important to have our newspapers audited by AAM.

“I cannot express how happy we are with switching over to CNA. It’s probably been one of the best decisions we’ve made.”

For More Information
Contact Kristina Meinig, senior marketing and sales manager, at 224-366-6412 or Donna Kean, marketing and sales manager, at 224-366-6371. More information is also available on AAM’s website.