TownNews.com, which helps more than 1,500 newspapers in the US publish interactive editions, has joined the Associated Press in incorporating hNews, a microformat designed to better mark up news content. An AP press release announced that the news cooperative has completed the first draft of the microformat specification and that TownNews.com plans to use hNews templates in its new BLOX Web content management system.
HNews is a non-proprietary draft microformat developed by the London-based nonprofit Media Standards Trust in conjunction with the AP. The idea is that a clear, consistent semantic method of marking up news will make it easier for search engines and humans to find, and open up the possibility for new business models, as Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, explained to the Editors Weblog in an interview in late August.
TownNews.com's new content management system will offer hNews as part of its core library of templates for its customers, enabling them to use hNews out-of-the-box on the new CMS platform, according to the press release. "We are pleased to work with The Associated Press to help newspapers move to the next level of content publishing," said Marc Wilson, general manager of TownNews.com. "I believe every effort needs to be made to enhance the value of content produced by newspapers."
"It's terrific to hear that TownNews is integrating hNews," Moore told the EW following yesterday's announcement. "This is exactly what we hoped would happen - we developed the news format such that, once integrated to a content management system, it would automatically mark up news articles without the journalist having to do any extra work. Now that TownNews is supporting hNews any of the 1,500 news sites that it works with can do the equivalent of flicking a switch, and suddenly their content will be marked up - in other words, made more semantic. Once they do this we hope other news organisations will then see how beneficial it is and do the same"
The Associated Press has added its own 'layer' to the microformat, which allows the organisation to track its content and see where it is being used. It will help the AP research and licence content more effectively, and seems to be a crucial part of the AP's copyright protection effort.
Further potential uses of hNews include developing APIs based on news content, or creating new ways for consumers to pay for content. The extent of its usefulness will only become clear if more news organisations follow the AP, TownNews and OpenDemocracy.net (a human rights and democracy advocacy site which has already integrated the microformat) in adopting it.
Source: Associated Press press release