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Things are starting to look up


It’s no secret that, throughout most of the past decade or so, it has been said that newspapers are declining. With the industry facing slumping ad sales, the loss of much classified advertising and sharp drops in circulation, there’s been reason for all the talk. But, newspaper decline isn’t something new and there have been many occasions throughout the last 70 years where the future of the industry has been threatened.
The newspaper business has always gone through cycles, weathering through and coming out only slightly battered. Look back at the arrival of radio and then television and here began the decline of newspapers as the primary source of daily news. But, the explosion of the Internet in the 1990s gave another blow, as it increased the options available to the average reader and could bring news to the consumer faster, was readily available and offered a more visual style than print.
Because of this, many print media sources are now making a partial or, in some cases, full switch to online. But, this poses many problems. As you probably know, newspapers survive on advertising revenues and online dollars have never been able to equal the same amount as print, comparing at only 10–15 percent of revenues.
The story is similar when it comes to subscribers – both print and online. News is like the cliché phrase “you get what you pay for” and there is a trend of people not wanting to pay for quality news, similar to not wanting to pay for quality products. While newspaper companies continue to produce much of the award-winning journalism, consumers of that journalism are less willing to pay for it in a world where information on the Web is plentiful and free. But, like with food choices, newspapers are the organic, all natural and gluten, chemical, GMO and antibiotic free way to get your news. Simply put, we guarantee accountable, accurate and factual coverage that many others don’t have the resources for.
Among all the negative, bright spots are starting to shine through in Canada and throughout the world for newspapers. We are still doing the reporting that sources like Google and Yahoo can’t and that blogs will never be able to afford, especially when it comes to local, community coverage. And, as the rise of fake news increases, so does awareness and recognition.
Similarily with ads, multiple stories have been emerging about the downfalls of online advertising through places like Facebook and Google. In fact, companies like Nike and even Jaguar have pulled the majority of their ad dollars, favouring print and other media where they are not being blocked, aren’t being inappropriately placed on websites promoting terrorism and their costs aren’t being driven up by false hits from online bots.
In Canada, newspapers are still being read weekly by eight out of 10 people and 75 percent of people prefer newspapers as their source for local community information. In Manitoba, 58 editions reached a circulation of 437,505. Which, if you factor in that the average newspaper gets read 2.5 times, readership sits a little closer to 1 million. Despite this strong number we have lost a few of our smaller partners, not because they were irrelevant but because there are just fewer and fewer advertisers in smaller communities and they just couldn’t make a profit.
Recently I attended the annual Manitoba Community Newspapers Association conference. As a group, they are just two years short of celebrating 100 years of journalism excellence in our province and I have no doubt that, despite the rapidly shifting business model of the news industry, our newspaper community will find a way to persevere and continue on, in some form, for another 100 years. Otherwise, what kind of world would it be without the original, most trusted and dependent source of news.