Last week the Alliance for Audited Media launched the AAM Quality Certification, which they describe as “a new holistic approach to verifying digital publishers.” The program is designed to provide advertisers assurance that they are reaching the digital audiences they intended when they placed their advertising. The program also supports premium publishers that differentiate themselves based on the quality audience they can deliver and the assurance that the metrics used to measure the size of that audience are accurate.
This program is another opportunity for publishers to reinforce an effective positioning statement for their news media companies: Quality.
Quality and accuracy are themes for our industry in an environment of “fake” news. Our audience puts trust in what we produce in print and online. In a recent survey conducted for BuzzFeed News, newspaper media ranked first in trust, with 74 percent of the public stating they “mostly / always” trust print newspapers. Newspaper websites were ranked second at 69 percent. Compare this with “online-only news publications” at 55 percent and only 27 percent stated they trusted what they read on Facebook.
This degree of trust among readers in our news content also applies to advertisers who rely on the extra scrutiny newspaper publishers provide through AAM audits and consistent reporting.
The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is backing AAM’s Quality Certification for publishers. In AAM’s press release, on the launch of the program, ANA CEO Bob Liodice states, “Last year the ANA asked what AAM could do to help minimize digital advertising fraud. As we worked toward a solution, we realized that while reliable technology and measurement are critical, there is no substitute for independent third party verification. AAM has given us a long-term solution to minimize digital advertising fraud. So today the ANA is calling for marketers to demand AAM Quality Certification of publishers.” Expect other organizations to follow.
Additional changes are scheduled to replace the traditional annual AAM Audit Report with a simple statement and there is a serious proposal for the industry to move a “continuing assurance” approach for all platforms. There will be more to come on that in the months ahead.
According to the AAM release, the Quality Certification program is “focused on minimizing digital advertising fraud by linking advertisers with Quality Certified publishers. The process verifies publishers’ business processes, website analytics and website audiences. The verification of these three components is necessary to ensure that a publisher’s commitment to quality runs throughout their entire operation.”
The News Media Alliance has been working with AAM in recent months to refine and ultimately endorse AAM’s plan for adapting to changes in the media marketplace.
Dan Schaub, corporate director of audience development at McClatchy and one of our industry’s most respected audience executives, serves on the AAM Board and is chairman of AAM’s newspaper committee. Referring to the partnership that has been forged between AAM, the Alliance and leading advertisers, he has stated, “Over the last few years the AAM and the News Media Alliance have worked together with media buyers to find new ways to empower news media companies in a changing media environment.” The AAM Quality Certification program is the latest product of that partnership.
Offering an advertising community perspective, Christina Meringolo, vice president of Integrated Marketing Solutions at Bayer Consumer Care, stated, “AAM Quality Certification is what the industry needs right now to bring more transparency to the entire media supply chain. To combat fraud today, we need an independent third party to verify that media’s business processes and technologies are performing as expected. AAM is the correct organization to connect agencies and their clients to verified publishers who can drive results.”
The program is gaining momentum. There are more than 50 publisher websites, including major local, national and international news sources that have been involved in the development process for AAM Quality Certification. AAM expects to issue the first official certifications later this year. As they emerge from the ongoing process, these news media sites are expected to be the first ones included in the AAM Quality Certified whitelist. This list of “premium” or “preferred” sites will be used by advertisers and their agencies in direct buys, private networks and open exchanges.
“This new certification program benefits all sides of the industry,” said Ted Boyd, CEO of Brandworks International and AAM chairman. “AAM Quality Certification will drive revenue for premium publishers and increase assurance for advertisers. This is a win for the good guys in the industry.”
This rollout comes at a time when news media companies are preparing to move to AAM’s new Brand View platform. This new interface will be the door that advertisers and more than 3,200 active users of AAM’s Media Intelligence Center database encounter in search of media data. Through the tool, news media companies will have the opportunity to present their verified offerings. The two dozen news publishers that are working on prototypes are including their print metrics, websites, apps, newsletters, events and more.
Now is the time for AAM newspaper company clients to contact AAM for assistance in creating an AAM Brand View profile. Starting with the quarter ending June 2017, Brand View will be the standard reporting tool, replacing the consolidated media reports. The move is part of a larger strategy from AAM and the Alliance to help newspapers meet buyer demand for more frequent, verified newspaper data, and has been a part of the plan since 2015 when newspapers began reporting all circulation data quarterly.
In addition to Brand View, other key components of this initiative include creating an abbreviated newspaper audit report and expanding AAM’s news media client base. These are all platforms that should be included in the effort to tell the “quality” story and position news media companies as premium players in the media marketplace.
AAM is continuing to work with industry groups, including the News Media Alliance and AAM’s Newspaper Buyers’ Advisory Committee, to move forward in how AAM data is distributed to the marketplace. Veteran advertisers are already aware of the credibility of news media companies and the quality of the audience. The younger players in advertising placement may not; and therein lies the challenge. It’s a story of quality and credibility across platforms both in terms of delivering the audience you promised and a trusted environment.
Now is the time for news media companies to differentiate themselves from the confusing clutter of the media marketplace. Investigate the new AAM offerings and you will find the additional tools you need to reinforce your positioning statement of quality and credibility.
To learn more about AAM Quality Certification program, visit AAM’s website.
Former Vice President, Audience Development at News Media Alliance.