AAN’s Long-Range Plans

We are presently nearing the conclusion of the association’s third long-range planning process, at the end of which we will have a set of objectives to achieve and projects to implement over the next three to five years.

Laura Dell, who has done consulting work for more than a half-dozen AAN papers, has served as our facilitator. We began the process in December by conducting online needs-assessment surveys of publishers (pdf), editors (pdf) and ad directors (pdf). Then Laura conducted in-depth interviews with eight AAN members representing a broad cross-section of the membership. The survey results and Laura’s report (Word doc) were distributed to the Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) prior to an all-day meeting held in Washington, D.C. in February.

The LRPC includes most of the members of the board of directors along with non-board members Amy Austin (Washington City Paper), Tim Keck (Index Publishing), Sally Freeman (Boise Weekly), Christine Oreskovich (The Coast), Don Farley (Times Shamrock) and Steve Delgado (Portico Publications).

The committee settled on five objectives for the association to focus on, and then heaved dozens of ideas against the wall to put meat on the objectives. The ideas that stuck were turned over to subcommittees that culled the lists in a series of conference calls and settled on the bullet-pointed ideas listed below.

We’ll be discussing next steps at our board meeting next week in Tucson. In the meantime, please don’t be alarmed by the fact that there are no bullet points under “ensure the financial viability of the association.” It just means we have more work to do.

Grow the association (possibly by revising the membership criteria)

  • Explore the possibility of allowing web-only publications to join the association
  • Market the association and actively recruit new members
  • Mentor applying papers and help those that didn’t get in the first time to improve so they can meet our standards the next year
  • Explore the possibility of promoting AAN membership and/or convention attendance for papers outside of North America, or of creating a special international class of membership

    Facilitate collaboration between members

  • Coordinate a group buy of media research
  • Aggressively promote the execution of collaborative editorial projects
  • Apply for non-profit foundation grants to support editorial projects
  • Collaborate on shared programs/movements like “Shop Local” and leverage efficiencies of marketing and program costs
  • Expand the association’s use of technology to facilitate inexpensive communication and sharing of knowledge among AAN members

    Help AAN members with their websites

  • Empower members to share web-publishing expertise, best practices and mentoring by creating robust new forums where information can easily be shared, including online social networks, webinars and conference calls
  • Create a web-publishing chair and an active web-publishing committee to oversee the initiative described above, and to identify expertise within and outside the association

    Provide professional development and training

  • Develop a sustainable regional sales-training program
  • Promote and enhance the Resource Library
  • Use the website to help facilitate paper-to-paper employee exchanges and to create a “mentor” database to facilitate direct member-to-member support on particular topics
  • Organize pre- and post-convention webinars to supplement convention training
  • Distribute a monthly email newsletter with examples of best stories and how they were done

    Ensure the financial viability of the association

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