AltWeeklies Content Exchange

March 1, 2013 in Distribution, Resources, Revenue

The AltWeeklies Content Exchange allows all members to privately share photo and video with one another. This means when a story breaks in Washington, Colorado can have access; if something of note happens in New Orleans, Portland can also run it.

Collaborate, Share Content, Co-fund longform stories. Hyper-local publications like yours regularly run local takes of a national story (e.g. Presidential Elections/Occupy Wall Street/SOPA, etc). Now you can have a bank of media from around the country that you can use.

You may think that your hyper-local news doesn’t have a national audience, but think of the last year – was there any piece of content from your paper that went viral? Any newsworthy event that happened locally that went around the country or the world?

Chances are you have at least few, and they can be syndicated to the Washington Post, New York Times, or even the Moscow Daily. By selling licenses to just one popular story you can make between $15-50K; sell a few and you can double your editorial budget. Best of all, you don’t have to change a thing – just go out and get the best local content as usual.” Source: altweeklies.cont3nt.com

23 responses to AltWeeklies Content Exchange

  1. The problem with AAN is it has devolved into a self-determining “good old boys and girls club” and, as membership falls, not admitting new members. With a membership policy of “we can’t exactly describe what an alt weekly is” how can the organization know what an alt weekly is when it is dominated by Voice Media and other publishing giants? Exactly how can an alt weekly be an alternative to the mainstream press when it is owned by the mainstream press? When AAN was formed as the Underground Press Syndicate it meant something. Today it is institutionalized and no longer an alternative. Besides, the “alternative” word itself has been co-opted by “power” and “lifestyle” to mean something quite different today.

    Even more lost than AAN is the Alternative Weekly Network. For several years AWN listed as member a product here named The Desert Post Weekly published by The Desert Sun, a Gannett daily serving the Palm Springs market. Although The Desert Post Weekly printed mostly legal notices with one or two pages of syndicated content, and not much else, it was long defined by AWN as an “alternative paper” – although it did not pay for membership – and listed equally beside real members.

    • Hey Dean, thanks for bringing your voice to the conversation. You raise a good question asking “what is an alt weekly is” but I would suggest many newsrooms across the nation face this. The field of news broadly continues to redefine its identity & role in an industry interrupted. Noting JA’s aim is to foster and encourage conversation across publishers, bringing new perspective, data, facts or context to help others thrive or take caution. It sounds like you may have had a disappointing experience around AAN membership. But it’s not correct that AAN is not accepting new members, criteria offered for those interested in membership to do so by 3/29: http://www.altweeklies.com/aan/membership/Page. Membership is currently offered as 126 news weeklies across the country ((http://www.altweeklies.com/aan/Directories/Newsweeklies) with a lot of variance across these alt’s — & many of these weeklies are producing exceptional (some Pulitzer winning) journalism. Also, to be clear that AAN and AWN (http://www.awn.org/) are not affiliated. From what publishers tell us, it’s still very messy out there, the opportunity to learn quickly, adapt and grow what’s working holds huge promise.

      • To be accurate I never suggested that AAN was not accepting new members. True, AAN does publish a policy about membership with membership criteria stated… “we can’t exactly describe what an alt weekly is, but we know what it is when we see it.”

        And, yes, going through the process was a disappointing and expensive experience. We learned quickly, adapted, and gave up on AAN. We feel more an affinity towards JA because of the encouragment and positive nature. Those other organizations – not so much.

        My comments expressed no disrespect to individual publications. I was specifically addressing AAN and AWN, not their members. If we cannot discuss what is broken then how can we fix it? The point I was making is that the value of regional and national association and affiliation is great and valuable if operated in a clear, fair and generous manner. I doubt I am alone in these sentiments.

  2. Thanks so much for joining us today, we welcome others who may have been listening to feel free to ask any additional questions, as well Patrick will likely come back with some additional questions or comments for Tiffany. Our hour is up, but the thread – and conversation – remains open! Hey Tiffany, is there anything Patrick didn’t ask you’d like to offer up – relative to things to watch for (or look forward to!) from the alt weeklies this year? If you time, by all means feel free to share anything that Patrick didn’t have a chance to ask.

    • LIsa and Patrick – thank you so much for this opportunity.

      A final note- I’m thrilled for the future of altweeklies — the return to all things local is really exciting for us–and a trend I think we will be able to take advantage of in ways no other media organizations can. And, we have a lot of partnership with amazing technical companies and tools that we will be rolling out this year. Finally, the progressive and entrepreneurial spirit that helped create altweeklies is now transforming the way we think about the future–we are actively finding creative and interesting ways to share content, and expand our brands — all while speaking truth to power and telling stories that no one else will. Look out!

      • This is an apt conclusion to our conversation. Thanks Tiffany.

        I asked Lisa for this interview with you because frankly I also see promise in alt weeklies as a hyperlocal resource that seem to be overlooked by the journalist community. Maybe it’s simply the word “alternative”.

        The Internet rewards interesting content, and frankly the writing on alt weeklies, a lot of it long form, is a lot less dry than local news reporting. The style is more akin to The Atlantic than Patch.

        Alt weeklies describe the “things to do” stuff in cities in far greater detail than traditional news. That content inventory – loads of clubs ads, listings and reviews – require the technology solutions you’re trying to develop with partnerships. Owners of altweeklies are small business owners; I can see you’re trying to corral all of them into building a stronger online presence.

  3. It seems Altweeklies maintain their advertising base by running weekly indexes of restaurants, events, reviews, etc. that somewhat mirror this current trend towards content marketing – the reviews or the PSA can become the “ad”. With the death of the banner ad, what marketing tact will altweeklies take?

    • Many of the altweeklies are looking into bundled offerings and additional innovations. The East Bay Express has a great new program – a business directory/self-publishing website for local business. They also have a pop-up boutique featuring local art and clothing. And, lest we forget that altweeklies do events better than anyone. SXSW came out of The Austin Chronicle, and there are other great events across North America including NXNE and MusicNW. Finally, some members are doing great apps and specialty sites that cater to tourists who want to know the coolest things to do in the city. Check out BurlApp from 7 Days.

  4. I can’t find any more newsstands in San Francisco (but I never take the bus) I’m wondering how alt weeklies will move from print distribution to online? Have ad revenues been impacted as steeply as traditional newspapers? Do many have plans, short or long term, to exit print?

    • I think they will continue to have some print–we find that there is still a strong desire for that newsprint on the fingertips with coffee. And, it differs from market to market. In some cities like Syracuse and Colorado Springs, print circulation has actually gone up in the last year.

      With that said, Altweeklies fundamentally understand that they need to be a part of the Mobile universe, and many are already thinking mobile first. If you think about it, alts were always really portable–tabloid style, easy to fold up and put in your bag — and they specialize in the happenings of a local community so the information is ideal for a mobile device. And, we are known for staggering and amazing art–which shows well, at least on a tablet.

      As far as ad revenues, yes and no. We never relied completely on huge national ads that have gone down considerably. As the local economy comes back, so does some of our rev. And, alts tend to be scrappy so they have some great additional revenue ideas like becoming digital agencies for local business, or offering white label services like online reputation management. The Omaha Reader and The Arkansas Times are having great success with this.

  5. How do altweeklies address the needs of the community – is it easy for civic groups, arts orgs and causes to contribute content?

    • Altweeklies are one of the few outlets that still actively reports on arts, culture and local civic activity. So, our members are keenly aware and absolutely involved with local groups, often partnering with them to do events. But, there is a wall between editorial content and what we are reporting on so the local organizations are absolutely sources, though not always direct content contributors. However, as we move into more multimedia, you will see some of that change – I think there will be an opportunity for a local organization to provide great video or audio content. We are already seeing this with papers like The Boise Weekly which has a real focus on multimedia content.

  6. Hi LIsa and Patrick. Thrilled to be here! Patrick-great question. Yes, we absolutely nurture young writers. Where else can you go and get to write amazing long-form narrative stories. We work with the top-ranked J-schools like Columbia and Medill to get great new talent. And, many go on to greatness. David Carr, Jake Tapper, Matt Taibbi–all cut their teeth in Alts.

    • How do alt weeklies recruit into these great young writers in their own cities? It’s like an HR question… they need to be local.

      • Often, editors and senior writers on staff are adjuncts or guest speakers at local universities. Or, they have ties to the area and grew up reading the alt there. And– if you are a young writer, it’s the coolest gig ever. You get to come in — write amazing stories on interesting topics. You don’t have to cover your tattoos, you can wear tshirts to work, you know about the best bands, and cultural activities. And, you get to know your local community in an intimate and important way.

      • As these writers evolve and become more well read, do they become syndicated writers? Is that a writer goal? Does AAN, the altweeklies trade org support writer syndication in order to augment content for the alt weeklies (say, for the Altweeklies Content Exchange described above these comments)

      • As an additional layer of Patrick’s question – if alt writers do syndicate, are partnerships forming across the alts were stories by one alt will appear in a different alt in a different city?

      • Some of the content in altweeklies is extremely specific and local so its not a syndication opportunity. But, there is some amazing stuff being syndicated as well. One of my favorites is called Ask a Mexican by by Gustavo Arellano of the OC Weekly. And, everyone knows about Dan Savage’s Savage Love.

        AAN also has stories available for our members on national topics that are important to all. One example is a story on taxes and the very wealthy from David Cay Johnston. And we are also encouraging more sharing of stories in general–trying to find more opportunities to do stories of national import and also localizing them. Issues like the environment and reproductive justice are ripe for this. And, there’s some interesting opportunities around how local communities are reacting to national issues–take the Occupy movement for an example.

        And yes to Lisa’s question – when appropriate this is absolutely happening, movie reviews…music reviews, etc. And, some of our chains do a great job of sharing content amongst sites — The Voice Media Group’s papers have local on the top of their site and on the lower half, they feature stories from their papers around the country.

      • I’d think “Ask a Mexican” could spawn a franchise of culturally related syndicated articles, I’d love to write “Ask a Japanese”

  7. Hey there, tx Lisa & Nicole, and glad to meet you Tiffany…

    Alt weeklies seem to have so many great local long form columnists, writers and reviewers. I’m always surprised these writers don’t seem to have any other writing outlet, like a blog or day job with mainstream media. Has this writing community been nurtured over long time by alt weeklies?

  8. Welcome to today’s live Q&A with Tiffany Shackelford, Executive Director at the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and with Patrick Kitano of the Breaking News Network who are with us to talk about the future of alt weeklies. Patrick has been interested in learning more about the unique role of the alt weeklies and how in many cities this cultural extension of identity is transforming inside of the larger digital disruption of the news industry. Patrick will lead the Q&A today, as we hear from Tiffany on how she sees the market, growth and innovation happening across alt weeklies, each one unique in its own way. This conversation will run about an hour, for folks listening in, remember to refresh your screen often to see the new comments added. With that, let’s get started – Tiffany and Patrick – Welcome!

  9. Join us here on March 1st 1:30 – 2:30 PM Eastern when AAN Executive Director Tiffany Shackelford will talk with us about the future of alt weeklies. Patrick Kitano of the Breaking News Network will guide this exploration, he’d been talking with me about his interest in doing a post on the alt weeklies for Street Fight after a conversation we’d had about an AAN conference in January (2013). The JA had joined in this AAN National Digital Conference in San Francisco, where I learned about a number of really interesting innovations and experiments some of the alt’s have been bringing to market. What struck me most is the super power of long-time relationships these alt weeklies have within their local business communities, and in aggregate the substantial relationship advantage the alt weeklies hold in local markets across the nation. Come check out the conversation tomorrow to hear more on the particulars!

  10. Coming up this Friday, January 25th, the JA is excited to join the Association of Alternative News Weeklies in San Francisco, in a welcome talk with Kevin Anderson from the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF). We’ll be springing off of Kevin’s focus around fascinating global examples of multi-platform journalism – as engagement opens up new commercial opportunities from El Faro in El Salvador Twitter techniques, to paid content strategies that work, to membership program innovation that helps support independent journalism. From there, the JA will narrow the focus on US market examples; exploring new partnership experiments, news ways peers are learning through collaboration, why metrics matter and a collection of practical tools others are using to play “what’s working” forward. Opening this up to the audience, we’ll also want to hear from the morning’s AAN Digital Conference participants! What does the AAN member community see working best in your market, what are you dying to try, what are some of the greatest obstacles you’re eager to tackle this year?

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