Convention Program Focuses on Web Publishing, Evolving Biz Models

While there are still a few details to nail down, the programming for the 32nd Annual Convention is largely in place.

The areas of focus at this year’s convention will be on evolving business models, web publishing and dealing with the recession.

“It’s clear that the old days of relying solely on display and classified advertising are over,” AAN executive director Richard Karpel says. “So this year’s convention will feature a great deal of programming on new products and revenue streams, and new business strategies.”

In the newspaper business, “new” often means cyberspace, but this year’s convention will feature new ways to make money in meatspace as well, with panels and open discussions on generating revenue from events and other non-traditional sources. On the web publishing side, speakers like Todd Stauffer, Katie Risch, Neil Budde, Jeff Ostiguy and Mark Potts will focus on increasing sales and creating new, higher-CPM products on the web and in mobile.

With the recession looming large over the alt-weekly business, survival will also be a big topic this year in Tucson. Editors, publishers and ad directors will share ways to cut expenses and increase operating efficiencies, and editors will deal with the painful and hopefully temporary issues raised by having fewer pages for editorial. In addition, Carol Flagg and Laura Dell will talk about how to maintain employee morale and, in Flagg’s case, how to coach clients through these tough times.

There will also be a special web stream at the convention. “Convention attendees will get a two-fer this year,” is how Karpel puts it. “They’ll get the AAN convention and a web publishing conference all wrapped into one.”

After two very successful Web Publishing Conferences in October 2006 and January 2008, AAN canceled this year’s event as a result of the recession. So the programming that would have taken place this winter in San Francisco has been moved to the convention instead. In addition to the revenue-focused programs noted above, there will be panels and presentations on building website features to maximize traffic, encouraging and managing user-generated content and making a big impact with local news online.

Several sessions this year will also focus on progressive ideas like collaborating with local, independent businesses and leveraging environmental leadership. The local-business session will include representatives of indie-business groups BALLE and AMIBA.

This year’s convention will also feature several format changes:

* The schedule will follow the Web Publishing Conference model, which means it will move at a quicker pace: Most sessions will be shorter (one hour) and there will be less time for breaks in-between.

* The convention will begin on Thursday afternoon (June 25) with roundtables and meet-and-greets, which will be followed by a plenary session featuring a “state of the association” presentation as well a performance by web guru Rob Curley.

* The Design & Production stream was cancelled after the overwhelming majority of AAN publishers indicated earlier this year that they would not be sending D&P personnel to Tucson.

The convention will be held June 25-27 at J.W. Marriott’s beautiful and affordable eco-resort and spa, Starr Pass. The cut-off date to confirm hotel reservations at the AAN rate is June 5. The deadline for early registration rates for the convention is May 22.

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