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Looking Forward, Looking Back: Jackman-Atkinson

October 4, 2015 10:03 AM | Columns

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman


(Newspapers image via Shutterstock)

NEEPAWA, Man. — Last week, new signage for the Neepawa Press went up on the Neepawa Banner building in Neepawa. The move had us looking back into the Neepawa Press’ archives, something we acquired with the purchase of the paper.

The Neepawa Press first began publishing in 1896 and its archives provide a glimpse into the area’s history. Tragedy and triumph, the paper was there to cover the area’s happenings and that record is forever preserved. This is one the very unique and interesting aspects of newspapers. Once printed, there are no revisions, the past is forever documented.

Moving the signage got us looking into papers from 1932, the year the Neepawa Press building was built. There was even a special feature highlighting the modern technology incorporated in the new building. While the technology proudly celebrated in the 1932 special feature is no longer in use, other aspects of the paper haven’t fundamentally changed. Today, newspapers continue to publish the news, views and issues important to the region.

It seemed timely, our adventure into the Press’ archives coincides with national newspaper week, which is being celebrated across the country from Oct. 4 to 10.
There’s no denying that it has been a tough decade for media as a whole, but we are seeing newspapers come out of this decade of turmoil and restructuring leaner and more focused. We now have a better understanding of what we do and how we provide value to readers and advertisers.

Today, we are seeing the convergence of media on the internet. Whether you prefer to read your news, listen to it or watch it, you can follow you favourite media outlet online or on social media. This convergence has increased competition and brought media and readers closer. Today, readers can comment on stories and connect with reporters and new organizations like never before and news from within the community is much more accessible to those living elsewhere. Media tells the stories of the people and this democratization is a good thing.

The interesting thing is that 10 years ago, many proclaimed that print would be dead within the decade, but it hasn’t happened and I don’t think it will. There is something about print that readers enjoy and connect with, even if they consume media in other ways as well.

It isn’t just newspapers, but hard copy books are proving resilient too. Despite sales of e-readers rapidly rising, digital book sales have slowed sharply. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales fell by 10 per cent in the first five months of 2015 and the sale of digital books has held steady at about 20 per cent of the market for last few years.

In much the same way that independent papers have better weathered the storm, the digital revolution has helped create a healthier independent book store industry. The American Booksellers Association, a not-for-profit trade organization that works to help independently owned bookstore, reported 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015. Five years ago they had 1,410 members in 1,660 locations.

No one expects this market structure to be temporary and publishers have begun reinvesting in print infrastructure and distribution networks. For example, Penguin Random House is betting on hard copy book sales, they invested close to $100 million in speeding up distribution and expanding and updating warehouses.

The last decade has taught us that the newspaper industry can never stand still. Today, no industry can. While we hope our readers will celebrate National Newspaper Week with us, we will continue to tell the stories of our region and keep readers informed as they look to the future, and the past.