My Perspective - A week of change


Kate Jackman-Atkinson
Neepawa Banner & press

This week has been one of change. For our Neepawa-area readers, this week’s paper looks a little different, it’s the first issue of the combined Neepawa Banner & Press.

This paper hitting the news stands this week marks another step on the journey that began in 1989, when Ken and Christine Waddell, and their family, launched the Neepawa Banner. That year, the Banner set up shop in a competitive market, under the shadow of the Neepawa Press, which first began publishing in 1896. Over the years, the Banner grew stronger, ultimately purchasing the Press in September 2015.

With the purchase, the goal was to continue to operate two papers; the Banner would keep its wide circulation, the largest of any rural weekly in Westman, while the Press would circulate within the Town of Neepawa and three surrounding municipalities.  One would have a regional focus, while the other, local. Having two papers allowed us to offer customers two different products, with two different price points, circulations and publication dates.

Interestingly, I looked back at my first post-Neepawa Press purchase column in the Banner and I found this telling message: “Surprisingly to me, the most frequent question we’ve been asked is, ‘Why are you keeping the two papers?’” Over the last two years, readers and advertisers have continued to ask this question.

As long as the Press was financially viable, we wanted to keep it going as a stand-alone publication with a very local focus. Over the last two years, however, one thing has become clear; advertisers liked the  Banner’s wider circulation. Provincial and federal government advertising is declining and for the ads they did run, they chose the wider circulation of the Banner.  Some of our local advertisers liked a cheaper option that allowed them to target their core customer base, but many also liked to reach customers in places like Gladstone, Minnedosa, Carberry, Erickson and Ste. Rose. The economics had shifted in favour of one paper— We would join the numerous other amalgamated papers, such as the Rivers Banner-Gazette Reporter and the Globe and Mail.

The decision has been made to combine the two Neepawa papers into the Banner’s wider circulation footprint and offer both readers and advertisers one larger and more comprehensive paper. I’ve been with the Banner since September 2006 and last week was a bit of a sad one. While I was excited about what the combined paper would be able to deliver, I was very much aware of the fact we were making the last stand-alone edition of each paper.

In creating the Banner & Press, we have combined popular features from both titles. In this week’s paper, you can find the popular Press features Looking Back, Thumbs Up and Good Folks of Lennox Valley, as well as Banner features, such as Out of Helen’s Kitchen and our five regular columnists. By combining the stories that would have run in both papers, we can also offer expanded coverage of local news and sports, giving readers a one-stop-shop to find out everything that’s going on in their community. With some new columns and features, we have also moved around some of the set pages, such as Travel and Entertainment, to better allow us to get news up in the front of the paper.

Producing only one paper a week allows us to better focus on not just its content, but also its design and layout. As we go through this transition period, we’d like to hear feedback from both readers and advertisers as to what would make a better product.  After all, we wouldn’t exist without you!