Next week's Annual Convention in Toronto will feature two panels that emphasize intensive investigative reporting and practices.

On Friday afternoon, July 16, AAN continues its "How I Got That Story" Series with a panel featuring Houston Press staff writer Paul Knight and editor Margaret Downing. They will discuss Knight's investigation into the unintended acceleration of the Toyota Prius -- a piece published by Houston Press four months before a Toyota Lexus accelerated out of control in California and killed four people -- ultimately resulting in Toyota's recall of millions of cars. Attendees who would like to read Knight's piece, "Wild Rides," in advance of the panel, can find it here. The discussion will be moderated by Santa Fe Reporter editor and AAN Editorial Chair Julia Goldberg.

On Saturday, July 17, attendees will brainstorm investigative stories as a group during "Going Deep for a Baker's Dozen: 12 Quick Investigative Story Ideas," winner of AAN's 2010 editorial panel contest. The session will feature Chris Potter, the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper, Lisa Rab, a staff writer from New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Christopher Twarowski, a senior reporter/editor and investigative reporter at the Long Island Press. They'll share their thoughts and experiences with investigative projects, and then serve as judges as the audience generates their own ideas that can be shared across markets. Attendees should come ready to participate and compete (there will be prizes for the best ideas!).

Bradley Zeve, publisher and CEO of Monterey County Weekly, conceived the Saturday panel and will serve as its moderator. "Michael Hastings' investigative piece in Rolling Stone brought down the talkative General McCrystal," Zeve says. "It certainly was a powerful reminder of how potent the alternative press can be. I want to know what other investigative stories editors and reporters of AAN might pursue, and how we can learn from one another."

Continue ReadingEditorial Panels Will Dig Deep in Toronto

Culture maven Patricia Martin says that in addition to being technologically savvy, the next generation of consumers is politically aware, hungry for knowledge, and are attracted towards brands that project authenticity.

All of this, Martin says, augurs well for alt-weeklies, which -- unlike mainstream media -- are uniquely positioned to capitalize on these trends.

"Some media outlets are doomed if they don't read the cultural trends," Martin says. "But independents have a secret weapon, they just need to optimize it."

The highly sought after keynote speaker and author of Renaissance Generation: The Rise of the Cultural Consumer and What it Means to Your Business, Patricia Martin will explain why she's bullish on the future of alt-media during an afternoon session at AAN's convention next month. Her award-winning consulting firm LitLamp Communications uses culture to connect brands with communities of consumers; and in Toronto she will demonstrate how alt-weeklies can use the lessons she's learned to create "emotional bonds" with their readers that will translate back to advertising dollars.

Martin's spot-on appraisal of the current cultural transition will be the final session on Friday, July 16, and is guaranteed to give convention attendees plenty to talk about as the evening's festivities commence.

Continue ReadingWhat is the ‘Secret Weapon’ of Alt-Weeklies?

Costs have been cut. Page count is down. Morale could be better. How do we do more than survive? This is the focus of the annual convention in Toronto. The shakeup of the past two years has, in many ways, given alt-weeklies the chance of a lifetime -- an opportunity for rebirth and reinvention. This July, in one of the most beautiful cities in North America, industry leaders, big-picture thinkers and plenty of your smart peers will be explaining how to create a blueprint for financial success. You'll learn how to focus and rededicate your company to thrive for the next decades and longer.

Continue ReadingToronto Convention: Innovating in Hard Times

By now, most publishers have come to terms with the basics of search engine optimization, but don't get too comfortable. Mike Volpe, from web marketing company HubSpot, will be in Toronto to explain the changes to the way in which search engines work. Volpe will give conventioneers tips on how to adapt and optimize your website in order to remain competitive in the future.

As an example, he says, SEO is becoming more time-sensitive and more personal. Google's new search index, Caffeine, just announced this week, will use more "real-time" results, which means that timely news and blog posts, as well as social media status updates, will become increasingly important to maintaining high search visibility. In addition, Volpe says search engines are beginning to use your physical location and search history more, and will eventually move into social search, which adds what your connections like and use to the mix. Many of these developments could bode well for alt-weeklies, which have strong content based around a locality and often have robust social communities. But that won't do you much good if you are falling on the second or third search pages. After Volpe's talk, you should be ready to make changes to your site that will prepare you for the future of SEO.

Continue ReadingWhat’s Next in SEO?

When you have a president who not only admits he inhaled but confesses to having used cocaine, it’s time to redefine "alternative," according to Henry Scott. At the Toronto Convention, the newly named publisher of Creative Loafing (Atlanta) and chief marketing officer of all six Creative Loafing papers will discuss what the company is doing to redefine the traditional "alt-weekly" and make it meaningful to an audience that would rather be well employed and raise a family than drop out of society and rebel.

Scott -- a self-professed member of the Woodstock Generation -- says he had long ago quit reading alt-weeklies because he found them irrelevant. He says market research he did at previous jobs at the New York Times and Metro New York showed him that most young people agreed. So he and his Creative Loafing team have rethought their approach, using easily available market research and staff coaching. In Toronto, he'll talk about how they are doing and he'll detail both the research and business aspects of the strategy.

Continue ReadingWho is the Audience of the Alt-Weekly These Days?

ProPublica director of communications Mike Webb will be on hand at the Toronto Convention to talk about how you can use their data and resources for your own investigative work.

The nonprofit news organization has rolled out a number of collaborative tools since its January 2008 launch, including a "reporting recipe" for how to investigate state boards that license nurses, pharmacists, mortgage brokers and other professionals. That specific tool was borne out of an investigation ProPublica did of California's nursing board that found broad breakdowns in the state's regulation of registered nurses.

Other resources the organization offers include the Stimulus Recovery Tracker and a "Reporting Matchmaker," the first of which hooked home loan modification applicants up with local journalists.

With newsrooms getting smaller, partnerships and collaboration are becoming hot topics in journalism. With a little guidance from Webb, you could well be on your way to a number of solid features that put local names and numbers on the big issues facing the nation.

Continue ReadingNeed Reporting Help? Get a Leg Up with Help from ProPublica

AAN has confirmed the guest speakers for its two lunches at this year's Toronto Convention. Ask a Mexican's Gustavo Arellano will reprise his role as host of the AltWeekly Awards banquet on Friday, July 16. And at the next day's Free Speech Lunch, attendees will hear from extraordinary rendition and torture victim Maher Arar, who was arrested by American immigration officials in 2002 and later deported to Syria. Despite being cleared of all ties to terrorism by Canadian officials, Arar remains on a U.S. terrorist watchlist, so you're not likely to see him speak in America any time soon.

Continue ReadingGustavo Arellano, Maher Arar Tapped as Lunch Speakers for Convention

Does your sales team, or your overall sales approach, need a shot in the arm? Sales trainer Richard Farrell of Chicago-based Tangent Knowledge Systems will be at the Toronto Convention to offer a new tool that just might help you boost sales and land new clients. On Friday, July 16, he'll walk convention attendees through his unorthodox nonselling sales process, touching on things salespeople should be focused on, like understanding the customer's needs, and what they shouldn't be, like over-communicating their sales messages.

Continue ReadingThe Trick to Selling? It’s Not Selling, According to Convention Speaker

The 33rd annual AAN Convention is heading north to Toronto, where NOW Magazine will host a three-day gathering of enlightening programming, unforgettable parties and crucial networking with your AAN peers. The convention website, which launched today, has the details thus far on programming, registration deals, travel and accommodations, and more.

Continue ReadingMark Your Calendars: AAN’s 2010 Convention Hits Toronto This July

The latest installment of our Sales Webinar Series for AAN members will take place on Thursday, April 22. The topic will be "Return on Expectations - The Key to Print Sales Success," presented by AAN Vice President and Colorado Springs Independent CEO Fran Zankowski. Registration is free for AAN members, but limited to 25 people; click here to register.

Continue ReadingFree Webinar on Print Sales Set for Thursday