AAN to Develop Syndication Web Site

The AAN Editorial Committee and Board of Directors recently approved plans to develop a “story-sharing” Web site providing AAN members with a means to syndicate editorial material within the association.

Since its split with the Institute for Alternative Journalism (now called the Independent Media Institute) in 1999, AAN has maintained the goal of creating a Web site that would supplement IMI’s Alternet, as well as more recently developed syndication services like Pulp Syndicate and Featurewell. Unlike these other services, AAN’s story- sharing Web site will focus exclusively on content produced by its own member papers.

Although resource constraints have until now prevented AAN from launching its own syndication service, the association’s current Web site, developed by associate member DesertNet beginning in 2001, has been constructed on a database architecture that can be adapted for syndication purposes.

“AAN papers have for years been swapping stories informally via e-mail and the editors’ listserv, clearly demonstrating their need for additional syndication tools,” says Clif Garboden, executive editor of Phoenix Media Communications and AAN President. “The new Web site will be designed to make it easier to meet those needs and expand cooperative editorial efforts among AAN papers.”

An ad hoc subcommittee is scheduled to meet with DesertNet CTO Wil Gerken in New York on Nov. 8 to begin the development process. Members who are interested in attending the meeting should contact AAN.

The syndication tools on the new Web site will sit below the public interface and will be accessible only to AAN members. Initially, at least, the Web site will merely facilitate syndication transactions by automatically generating e-mail notices to both buying and selling papers. The details of each transaction will be worked out between papers without AAN’s involvement.

To build the new Web site, AAN must fill a searchable database with links to editorial content on its members’ Web sites, and categorize the material by subject and topic. In doing so, the organization will be creating an internet presence that also serves the goals of showcasing AAN-member content and creating a research tool for journalists and academics.

Executive Director Richard Karpel says AAN is in the process of hiring an editor whose responsibilities will include publishing the new Web site. The new editor will replace Lyda Phillips, who left AAN three weeks ago when her job was phased out. Following Phillips’ departure, Director of Sales and Marketing Roxanne Cooper assumes responsibility for the association’s public relations effort, and Debra Silvestrin, meetings and special projects director, will manage the diversity internship program as well as publication of the annual print directory.