Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New Classified Ad Standards Needed

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New Classified Ad Standards Needed

Article excerpt

As more newspapers pool the classifieds from their print editions into large online databases, they're encountering serious compatibility problems

The cryptic language long required by print newspapers for classified ads is thwarting the most powerful advantage of online advertising systems - searchability.

As a result, newspaper publishers must quickly agree on a new system of standards for online classified ad language and structure if they hope to compete successfully against nontraditional competitors in cyberspace, warned speakers at a recent American Press Institute seminar in Reston, Va.

The issue is a very important one because growing numbers of newspapers are working together in consortium arrangements in which they pool the ads from their individual print editions into massive national online databases. For instance, the CareerPath Web database carries employment ads from 65 newspapers across the country.

The big problem is that to function smoothly, all entries in such a database must use the same language forms and other elements.

NAA Task Force Created

The Newspaper Association of America has created a task force to work toward establishing new sorts of standards acceptable to large numbers of publishers.

Eric Wolferman, NAA's vice president of technology, said that in print, each newspaper sets its own standards as to sequence and content. But with electronic ads, the user can set the parameters that are relevant to him or her. To be searchable, the data fields have to be organized - price, size, amount, location, color, etc. But print classifieds are not structured for electronic formats; abbreviations are not standardized; and there is no consistent transactional format.

What is needed Wolferman said, is a standard data format, a standard transaction format, standard text-formatting tags and standard shorthand. This will allow ads to be submitted and used on multiple networks, and will enhance the development of new classified forms.

The NAA task force, which is comprised of newspapers and technical providers, has met twice. For the moment, the group is trying to determine the basic data sets - the minimum essential information - for auto, employment and real estate ads, plus the header information.

Working with Auto Dealers and Realtors

Kevin J. McCourt, NAA's director of real estate advertising and online classifieds, said the National Auto Dealers and the National Association of Realtors are undertaking similar efforts. …

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