NAA Task Force Unveils Online Classified Standard

The Newspaper Association of America’s Classified
Advertising Standards Task Force has introduced a common format that allows
classified ad publishers, advertisers and online enterprises to readily
exchange and publish classified ads.

The task force that developed the standard is headed by Jack H. Stanley,
The Houston Chronicle’s senior vice president/operations and technology. NAA is
currently holding its Newspaper Operations SuperConference in Orlando.

“This is a very exciting development for online classified ads, especially
those published by newspapers,” said John F. Sturm, NAA president and CEO. “The
ability to exchange hundreds of classified ads online brings a dramatic leap
in service for the reader and value for the advertiser. The online classified
ad standard will give newspapers a new level of search sophistication, as well
as creating expanded potential for new and existing revenue models.”

While classified advertising looks similar in many publications, each handles
the ads a little differently. There are no uniform rules for what information
should or should not be included about any given product.

With the advent of the Internet, however, many publishers, including
newspapers, offer their classifieds on the Web. Many of these publishers are
seeking to aggregate their ads with those of others in order to offer
advertisers and readers a wider reach. To share ads and make them searchable,
a common format and structure is needed so they can be easily added to a
database, regardless of their origin.

“Adopting a standard format for processing ads unleashes the enormous power of
classified advertising in hundreds of newspapers across the country,” said
Eric Wolferman, NAA’s senior vice president for technology. “Reaching
agreement on this standard so swiftly is a remarkable achievement.”

The standard addresses classified advertising from the time it is placed —
either through a traditional ad taker or directly from the advertiser
electronically. Standard information sets, global tracking numbers and common
descriptions of the data will allow easy sharing and organizing of classifieds
in any medium or classified network.

The four basic components of the system are a standard data format, a standard
transaction format, standard text-formatting tags and standard shorthand.
Version 1.0 of the standard addresses the standard data format and standard
text-formatting tags. Later versions will address the other components.

The standard is represented electronically through a document type definition,
or DTD, which has a set of elements, or fields, which describe the product
being sold. Some of the fields–such as name and other contact information–are required elements, and many more are recommended.

The DTD is built using the XML markup language, and is free and available for
download from NAA’s Web site.
NAA is a nonprofit organization representing more than 1,700 newspapers in the
and Canada.

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