Right in the centre - It has been a good year


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

As I prepared to write this year end column, I looked back at last year’s. In it, I noted it had been a tough year for newspapers in general, as several papers had closed. This year hasn’t seen nearly as many closures across North America and none in Manitoba.

In fact, there have been some new papers start up in the U.S., but I am not sure if there have been start-ups in Canada.

I think the reason that local newspapers are doing a bit better may have been outlined in my last year’s column. I said a year ago that local newspapers are a much more reliable source of news than Facebook, TV channels or even radio. The closer the news gathering is to the source of the news and the targeted readership audience, the better off everyone gets to be.

Both the Neepawa Banner & Press and the Rivers Banner are having a better year than last year. There are two reasons. Local news is best and advertisers are realizing that while there are lot of newer (and more glitzy) alternatives out there, they may not be as effective as first thought. Pop-up ads on the computer are annoying at best and easily grow wearisome. I find I click away from any internet site that has pop-up ads. TV commercials are very repetitive and also very annoying. Newspapers, and the stories and ads they carry, are more passive, less in your face and offensive to your senses. Your newspaper ad isn’t going to jump off the screen at you or yell in your face. Your newspaper just sits quietly on the kitchen table until you are ready to pick it up. No noise, no sensory overload, just nice relaxing pages of pictures, stories and news about the people closest to you.

The other thing that is happening is also a matter of quiet reliability. The local paper has no desire to run lies or alternative facts, the so-called “fake news”. No desire to run such garbage, but also, the local paper would not get away with it, even if they wanted to do so. If a local publisher mistakenly runs an incorrect story, it is one thing, but if an intentional misstating of the facts were to happen, the publisher would hear about it within the hour.

Another factor that is slowly coming into play is that Facebook, even without all its fake news problems and data breach problems, is not being seen by as many people as one would think. If we post a story to FB, an ordinary story gets 200 to 300 views. If it is a bigger story, we get a couple of thousand perhaps. In contrast, the Rivers Banner is seen by 4,400 people and the Neepawa Banner & Press is seen by 20,000 people. Granted, not everyone  reads their paper cover to cover, but readership surveys show that 85 per cent of readers read their local paper every week. The other beautiful thing about a local paper is that you don’t have to remember where on web sites you saw a story and you don’t have to stay glued to your TV to get the news.

Yes, it has been a tough time for newspapers, but it has turned around. It has been a better year in the local newspaper industry for sure. And here’s an interesting fact. Some well intentioned, but misled soul at Chrysler Canada decided to drop all newspaper ads. They dropped weeklies and dailies cold turkey. Well guess what? It has been about 22 months since that fateful decision and their sales are down by about 22 per cent. Sure, you can advertise all you want. You can use Facebook, websites, TV, radio, they all have their place. You can put posters on Hydro poles if you want. But for local and regional advertising, the best alternative is still the local newspaper.

May God richly bless you and yours this Christmas season.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.