The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) Classified Advertising Standards Task Force "was organized by the NAA Technology Department to facilitate the electronic exchange of classified ads. This group of on-line classified advertising experts, has [1999-01] released the first draft of a format designed to standardize exchange of classified ads on the Internet. The group believes the standard will allow newspapers to more easily aggregate classified ads and will enhance search features for merchandise. The standard is written in XML, a tagging language designed to facilitate exchange of database information on the Internet."
From the Crest v2.0 standard description: "Four components of this standard will allow ads to be used on multiple networks and network appliances, as well as increase opportunities for aggregation. The four components are a standard data format, a standard transaction format, standard text-formatting tags and standard shorthand... Keeping in mind the goals -- unrestricted ad movement, powerful Web-based searching, media-independence, and support from commercially-available software -- the task force selected Extensible Markup Language (XML) to develop its standards. The task force generated a document type description (DTD) to define XML tags and their proper usage in conjunction with this standard. The DTD 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 strongly recommended elements, and many more are merely recommended, giving newspapers the standard information they need while also allowing advertisers to be flexible. Because the real estate, transportation and employment categories represent the bulk of all print classified advertising, the task force decided to tackle these three categories first (in Phase 1). The DTD incorporates resolutions to a number of issues. These issues include: (1) Tracking down shared ads, for editing or deletion, by a unique identifier; (2) Associating ad content with keywords, for Web searches; (3) Supporting the variety of formatting capabilities each publisher offers; (4) Ensuring quality control in electronic ad transfers; (5) Supporting special services (reply forwarding, proof copies, tear sheets, sorting) typically offered by newspapers; (6) Including advertiser, contract, and payment information in ad transfers; (7) Extending the ad markup language to allow individual publishers to enhance the standard with custom features; and (8) Mapping classifications between publishers. (9) The group also decided that the following items should be created to facilitate the standard's implementation: (10) A 'vision' document or primer to explain to users the standard's purpose and provide examples of how it will look and function; (11) A DTD implementation model for classified advertising system developers that will provide technical details on XML tag descriptions, definitions and usage; (12) A DTD implementation model for business and classified advertising professionals that will provide recommendations on data collection; and (13) A program for communicating this standard's availability and acquiring feedback from adopters. In future phases of task force activity, XML tag descriptions and definitions for additional classified advertising categories are expected to be established. Revisions and updates to existing tags will also be explored..."
About the Task Force and initial standard:
"The NAA Classified Advertising Standards Task Force was organized to facilitate the electronic exchange of classified ads. The task force is composed of approximately 40 classified advertisers, advertising publishers, aggregators, system users, suppliers and technology experts. Representatives from organizations that either expressed or were expected to have a high degree of interest in the establishment of a standard for classified advertising data exchange--including several nontraditional newspaper industry suppliers--were invited to participate on the task force. The Task Force's stated mission is, 'to establish standards that permit advertisers to provide, and newspapers to share and aggregate, advertising data for publication in media-independent formats.' Standards developed will pave the way for aggregation of classified ads among newspapers on the Internet, as well as enhance the development of classified processing systems. The standards will be non-proprietary and, although intended to assist newspapers and their suppliers in publishing classified ads, they will be freely available to all parties..."
The task force developed a standard that addresses classified advertising from the moment it is placed--whether through another aggregator/publisher or directly from the advertiser--with a publisher intending to make the ad available electronically. Standard information sets, global tracking numbers and common descriptions of the data would permit them to be more easily shared, organized and published through multiple media channels. Though all the ad information might not appear in some media, the additional information collected would allow ads to be fully searchable on the Internet. The standard does not, by itself, represent a solution to the problem of republishing classified advertising in multiple media. It will, however, provide a common classified advertising data structure that technology providers can use to build better tools and systems for handling these data. With standardized data formats and these better tools, advertisers, ad aggregators and publishers can simplify their workflows and more effectively provide data sought by consumers... [from the Technical Overview 2000-00]
[March 10, 1999] The 'ADEX' DTD was updated to version 1.1 as of 1999-02-26. Later as 1.2. References are provided below.
[January 11, 1999] In January 1999, the Classified Advertising Standards Task Force reached a major milestone in standards development with the publication of an XML DTD, announced in press release: "NAA Task Force Unveils Classified Ad Exchange 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 standard is represented electronically through a document type definition, or DTD, a virtual road map for classifieds. The DTD has a set of elements, or fields, which describe the product being sold. The DTD is built using the XML markup language, allowing it to be easily modified. It is free and available for download from NAA's Web site . . ." See also the press release from the NAA Web site.
[Earlier description] The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) Technology Department has recently formed a task force to develop standard record structures for classified ads. The task force is made up of forty (40) representatives "from newspaper classified, technical and new media operations, as well as new media technology providers, traditional newspaper classified system suppliers and large classified advertisers. The standardized format is part of an industry-wide initiative to establish newspaper classified advertising online as the marketplace of choice for motivated buyers and sellers to meet." The goal of this initiative "is to define a data structure for ads in various categories to facilitate the electronic exchange of classifieds. It is believed that a standard will pave the way for possible aggregation of classified ads among newspapers on the Internet, as well as enhance the development of classified processing systems. The NAA's Classified Ad Standards Task Force will therefore create a standard 'data set' to collect information in a similar format for automotive, real estate and recruitment classifieds. Once the standards have been established, a format for collecting the information will be developed in XML, a special tagging language designed to facilitate the exchange of data on the World Wide Web and other computer-based languages." The March/April 1998 issue of NAA's TechNews "New Media" Department forecasts: "The computer world is moving to XML, and so will newspapers."
An initial meeting of the NAA task force was held May 12-13  in Houston, and development plans were renewed during the 1998 NAA Classified Conference in Boston, MA, May 31 - June 3, 1998. Note that the Newspaper Association of America, together with the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) has also been instrumental in the development of an SGML/XML interchange format for the News Distribution Industry, called News Industry Text Format (NITF), and formerly, "Universal Text Format."
NAA Standard for Classified Advertising Data Technical Overview. CREST V2.0. By the NAA Classified Advertising Standards Task Force. Vision document/primer, Revision 1. Posted 1/13/00. 30 pages. "This document is intended to fulfill the first bulleted item in the previous list, viz, 'Tracking down shared ads, for editing or deletion, by a unique identifier'. It summarizes results achieved by the NAA Classified Advertising Task Force during Phase 1 of its standardization effort and familiarizes readers with the most important issues associated with successfully exchanging classified advertising data. The 'players' involved in classified ad entry, markup, and transmission are outlined and the technologies used for ad markup and transfer are identified. Potential problems that system suppliers must address are indicated..." [PDF cache version]
"NAA Task Force to Develop Standards for Online Classified Ads." - Press release, June 01, 1998
Background information on the NAA classified ads standard is presented (for Phase 1 results) in "NAA Standard for Classified Advertising Data - Technical Overview." This overview summarizes "the standardization effort and familiarizes readers with the most important issues associated with successfully exchanging classified advertising data; the 'players' involved in classified ad entry, markup, and transmission are outlined and the technologies used for ad markup and transfer are identified; potential problems that system suppliers must address are indicated."
"Generation XML", by Chris Feola. NAA TechNews Volume 4, Number 2 (March/April 1998). - "No matter what the newspaper industry does, the computer industry developing these underlying technologies is jumping onto the XML bandwagon with both feet." And note: NAA 'XML Resources.'
"Into the Digital Future." By Andrew Bowser. NAA TechNews Volume 4, Number 2 (March/April 1998). - "By separating content from format, advanced editorial systems are automating the process of publishing in multiple channels. . . In addition, XML will make it simpler for a publisher to deliver targeted print products, as well as personalized content directly to a consumer's desktop. Finally, it promises a way for publishers to share information-a key issue as the online-classified battle heats up, with national aggregators taking on local newspapers . . ."
[January 19, 1999] "Beyond Classifieds. NAA Unveils Classified Ad Exchange Standard. A Report from NAA's SuperConference '99." By Jim Rosenberg. In E&P Interactive January 13, 1999. "A new classified advertising standard should make it easier for the newspaper industry to collectively aggregate classifieds for Web sites. . . The desire to collect ads in certain categories on searchable Web sites drove the development of ADEX, though the media-independent format should be suitable for print and voice products as well. In its print products alone, each newspaper typically accepts, processes and prints ads in its own manner, according to section design, preferred practices and system capabilities. ADEX 1.0, which sets standard data format text formatting tags (ad abbreviation and transaction formats will follow), is ready for release and is about to be distributed one last time for review and comment. Verification pilot projects are already scheduled and ADEX education sessions are planned for all NAA functions throughout 1999, according to Stanley. ADEX is a human- and machine-readable form for transmitting an ad from any source to any destination - either might be an advertiser, agency, publisher, audiotext studio or Web site."
"E-Classified Standard Coming Online." By Andrew Bowser. In [NAA] TechNews Volume 4, Number 3: May/June 1998. "With would-be classified competitors aggregating advertising on a nationwide level, newspapers now struggle to get classified ads out of creaky front-ends and into the new-media loop. To help solve the dilemma, about three dozen newspaper staffers and vendors are trying to develop standard record structures for classifieds. What comes out of the working group, it's hoped, will make it easier to aggregate ads, republish them in print directories and on the World Wide Web, share them with other publishers in national or regional networks, and allow for easy, targeted online database searches."
[June 12, 1998] "The Smarter Classified." By Lisa Rein. In Wired News (June 12, 1998) '5:01am'. "A Newspaper Association of America (NAA) task force is developing a classified ad standard for online newspapers which, if successful, will bring structure and formatting to common types of classifieds appearing on the Web."
See also: "MOS-X (Media Object Server - XML)"
Contact: Dr. John Iobst, Director of Advanced Computer Science; Media Technology Division Department; Tel: +1 (703) 902-1838; FAX: +1 (703) 902-1842.