Classified Conference Slated for November

Separate programming planned for small and large classified departments.

AAN announced this week that it would host the first-ever Alternative Newspaper Classified Advertising Conference on November 3-4 in Dallas. The conference, which is designed for publishers and classified managers, will run two programs simultaneously, one for papers with a classified staff of less than four employees and one for larger papers. It will be held near the West End at Le Meridien Dallas.

According to Willamette Week Vice President of Sales and Marketing Russ Martineau, the seed for the conference was planted two years ago during the association’s long-range planning process, when AAN members expressed interest in sales training support for both classified and display advertising. The concept germinated this year when the runaway success of the AAN CAN classified network convinced AAN staffers that the association needed to do more to help its members focus on the huge opportunities awaiting in their classified departments. Then, at the Phoenix convention, the AAN Board agreed to fund a classified conference in the fall, and appointed Martineau chair of a special committee to develop programming for the conference.

The ad hoc classified committee met earlier this month in Chicago. In addition to adopting Martineau’s concept of two-tiered programming (jokingly referred to at the meeting as “the Martineau vision”), the committee of publishers and classified managers decided to conduct a survey of AAN-member classified departments and present the information at the conference.

[In addition to Martineau, who is vice-president of the association, the committee members who attended the meeting were Bill Bleakley, Oklahoma Gazette ; Mark Cady, Philadelphia City Paper ; Stuart Folb, Houston Press ; Marcy Gregory, Tucson Weekly ; Jeanie Johnson, Pacific Sun ; Jim Kaplan, Metro Silicon Valley ; Blanche Kitchen, LEO (Louisville Eccentric Observer ); Jane Levine, Chicago Reader ; Susan McDonough, Advocate Weekly Newspapers; Lynn Moore, Isthmus ; Sheri Simon, Washington City Paper.]

Following the committee meeting, AAN hired financial standards guru Seija Goldstein to conduct the survey and present the results in Dallas. Questionnaires will be distributed to AAN members the first week of September. Although the classified survey will be a cinch to complete compared to financial standards, the same rules will apply: Only those papers that respond will be privy to the results.

Goldstein’s presentation will be held when the conference begins on Friday afternoon, Nov. 3.

On the second day, attendees will split into two groups. The program for smaller papers is for publishers and classified managers who are prepared to implement a new program in the coming year, Martineau said. Starting a program can be expensive, he added, and this seminar is designed for publishers who are “ready to take the plunge.”

“For papers that haven’t taken the plunge, building a classified department is a significant investment,” Martineau said. “The idea of this seminar is that we’re going to be giving them some professional guidance and a blueprint, or business plan, for success.”

The seminar instructor will focus on management structure, classified technology, policies and procedures, category targeting, classified section design and rate card issues.

“The concept of the small classified program is to identify what kind of investment needs to be made for the best chance of success,” Martineau said. “We want to give publishers a ‘how to get started’ strategy.”

Classified managers from larger papers will attend a seminar that focuses on building a hard-hitting, aggressive sales approach. The program will focus on sales and marketing strategies, and outbound selling. Martineau said this program is designed for classified managers, referring to it as a training session for those who train.

Registration materials for the conference will be mailed in September. The registration fee will be $150 for AAN members and $250 for nonmembers. For room reservations, call Le Meridien at 214-979-9000 and ask for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Classified Conference rate.

Papers that have participated in the AAN CAN network will receive one free registration.

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