AAN Announces Conference Schedule for 2008

There’s a little something for everyone next year on the AAN conference schedule.

For publishers, editors and other managers, there’s the annual convention in Philadelphia, which will be held June 5-7.

For management personnel grappling with the web, there’s the second annual Web Publishing Conference, which will be held in San Francisco on Jan. 30-Feb. 1.

Rank-and-file staff have AAN West, which will be held in San Francisco on Feb. 1-2, immediately following the Web Publishing Conference.

Editorial and design and production staff will congregate at the Alternative Journalism Writing and Design Workshop, to be held in Evanston, Ill. on Aug. 15-16.

And for first time ever, publishers will get their own conference, date and time still to be determined.

The annual convention will be hosted by the Philadelphia City Paper, and will be held in Center City Philadelphia, within walking distance of the one-in-a-kind Reading Terminal Market as well as historical sites like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Convention events and meetings will take place at both the Philadelphia Convention Center and the Philadelphia Marriott, which will serve as the host hotel for PhiladelphiAAN.

“Philadelphia has an incredibly rich and diverse cultural scene, remarkably colorful neighborhoods, stunning architecture and the largest urban park in America,” says City Paper publisher Paul Curci. “We will provide a fresh look at an old east coast industrial city that has transformed itself — against all odds — into a center of creativity and innovative thinking.”

But before we make it to the City of Brotherly Love next summer, AAN will be stopping in the City by the Bay, where, in an unusual arrangement, the association will host back-to-back conferences in late January and early February. First, the Web Publishing Conference will be held at the Miyako Hotel in Japantown from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1. (The Miyako Hotel will be renamed the Kabuki Hotel before we arrive.) The conference will begin with a cocktail party on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 30, and end with a half-day of programming on Friday, Feb. 1.

The first AAN Web Publishing Conference, held in San Francisco in Oct., 2006, was the highest-rated conference in AAN history, with 87 percent of the post-conference survey respondents giving it the highest possible score. “This was the best AAN conference by far,” said one respondent, in a comment echoed by many others who attended. “You chose really good (speakers), and it’s already helped us to improve our site.”

The AAN West staff training conference will begin Friday, Feb. 1, the same day the Web Publishing Conference ends. Although AAN West sales programming will overlap with the Web Publishing Conference on that Friday morning, the remainder of the AAN West program won’t begin until the afternoon.

AAN West was organized differently this year than it has been in the past, with a group of publishers in northern California doing most of the heavy lifting after AAN decided not to include either AAN East or West in the organization’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget. The regional conferences lost $64,000 in the current fiscal year, and paid attendance at AAN West had declined from a high of 430 in 1999 to a low of 165 this year.

With a mandate to cut costs and breath new life into an event that has been held in San Francisco since the early 90’s, the companies with the largest stake in the conference — News & Review, Embarcadero Publishing, San Francisco Bay Guardian, East Bay Express and Monterey County Weekly — stepped up to the plate and delivered. They prepared a new budget, found a new, less expensive meeting site, and organized the conference programming, all without raising the registration fee, which has held steady at $75 for AAN members since it began.

The conference will be held at the First Unitarian Universalist Church & Center in San Francisco, which is in the same neighborhood as the Cathedral Hill Hotel and the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway, where AAN West has been held since 1996. It is also only three blocks from the Miyako.

Meanwhile, the Alternative Journalism Writing and Design Workshop will once again be held at the Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., in conjunction with the final weekend of classes for next year’s Academy for Alternative Journalism. This year’s workshop — which was held last month — was the first to include programming for design and production personnel as well as writers and editors.

AAN also plans to organize its first Publishers Conference in 2008. A recent survey indicated that more than 40 member publishers would be interested in attending such a conference, which would be held over a weekend and would be primarily designed to provide a relaxed atmosphere for informal discussion and idea-sharing focused on bottom-line-oriented business issues. Registration would be limited to one person from each member paper, i.e., the publisher or another representative designated by the publisher.

The date and location of the Publisher’s Conference will be announced later this year.