24 Things We Learned at the 2012 AAN Convention

june 22, 2012  11:00 am
24 Things We Learned at the 2012 AAN Convention
Print is back, and it looks fabulous.
It's been two weeks since the 2012 AAN Convention in Detroit, and now that we've had time to calm down from our brush with greatness, it's time to take stock of what we've learned, and where we go from here:

  1. Keynote speaker Matt Thompson reminded us that "alts invented the voice of the internet," with bombastic voices and personal narratives. Alternative publications have always been "great at being where people are," but with the audience shifting to mobile, alts have to start thinking mobile first.

  2. Keynote Ethan Zuckerman told us that it's not enough to get people's attention, once we have it, we have to mobilize them. He recommended the book, Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press.

  3. Baratunde Thurston shared thoughts on diversifying newsrooms, digital storytelling, and how alt-weeklies can become more inclusive by beating little brown children with our newspapers. "They'll never forget you."

  4. We were inspired by the ideas, insight, and courage of 96-year-old activist Grace Lee Boggs.

  5. MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer told us that "the nature of the struggle is to fight and lose repeatedly until you win."

  6. UC Berkeley professor Jeremy Rue gave us the lowdown on trends in how consumers are using tablets and mobile devices, and explained that while mobile apps dominate the marketplace now, mobile web is where we're heading.

  7. Anton Gelman explained how to make money off video on your website, even if you don't have the resources to produce your own videos. He showed how AAN members can share photos and videos on the AltWeeklies Content Exchange.

  8. NPR's Sondra Russell showed us that web analytics can be sexy, and shared a handy website that explains the basics using words we can all understand.

  9. SouthComm COO Rob Jiranek dug into the relationship between alt-weeklies and adult ads, and said that it's time for them to break up. What will take the place of adult ads? He sees financial services and cultural categories like tourism as two growth opportunities.

  10. We learned that with the economy, "It's complicated." In a workshop conducted by the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, NPR correspondent Marilyn Geewax and Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson discussed the state of the economy and shared 10 story ideas on your local economy for writers to take home from Detroit.

  11. When it comes to diversity in alt-weekly newsrooms, we still have a long way to go. Tucson Weekly editor and AAN Diversity Chair Jimmy Boegle went over the results of AAN's first-ever survey of alt-weekly demographics and led a discussion on diversity best practices and how to broaden the reach of alternative publications to minority communities.

  12. "Nerd-in-Chief" Will Sullivan gave attendees a sneak peek at emerging technologies that are transforming journalism, and was kind enough to provide a list of links and resources in case you didn't take notes.

  13. We learned that it's better to observe how readers are engaging with our products instead of asking them. "People are great at showing, bad at telling," said design artisan and business strategist Michael Meyer.

  14. In the cover critique, art directors commiserated and learned they're not alone in having to include more and more promotional material on their once-sacred front page.

  15. When we asked editors what their single biggest challenge is, this is what they told us:
  16. Peter Conti of Borrell Associates informed us that of the $16.4 billion spent on local digtal ads last year, 46 percent of that spending went to non-journalism sites. Conti will reprise his convention appearance in a webinar on Wed., June 27.

  17. We dove into the world of comics and graphics journalism, exploring how to tell complicated stories in a variety of formats, one panel at a time.

  18. We saw that Detroit has amazing architecture.

  19. Stry.us founder Dan Oshinsky showed us how responsive design works like "a kind of magic" reformatting based on your device, the size of your web browser, and what direction you're holding your phone.

  20. We acknowledged that it's one hell of an achievement to be a finalist, especially when your competition is 1,100 entries from 90 papers in two countries.

  21. Print lives, and it looks fabulous.

  22. Never underestimate the ability of a B-list celebrity to excite even the most jaded journalism professionals.

  23. We realized that it's not what you learn, it's who you learn it with:

  24. And finally, we learned that it's never too early to start thinking about next year.