Gannett, the parent company of USA Today on Wednesday acknowledged having provided false data to its advertisers over a nine-month period in 2021, arguing the information was given in error.
"Gannett sincerely regrets inadvertently passing along the incorrect data parameter, the media giant said in a statement. "This human error was immediately rectified when the company independently discovered the issue."
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal published a report describing the nature of the faulty information.
In addition to USA Today, Gannett owns local news outlets in 46 states including the Arizona Republic, the Tennessean and the Detroit Free Press. In this case, the company was telling advertisers they were purchasing ad space on one Gannett site, often USA Today, according to the Journal, when in reality, they were purchasing space on another – like one of the local outlets.
The company said the incorrect information was distributed to its advertisers "due to a caching error when the company implemented changes to how data is passed from the published to the ad exchanges."
The Journal reported that the error was added to the company's system by an employee in May 2021 and corrected on March 4. The company is currently determining whether it will issue refunds to advertisers.
The company also noted that the "third-party programmatic advertising exchanges" that utilized bad data accounted for less than $10 million in revenue.