Right in the centre - Some basic facts about newspapers


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Dozens of times per week we get various press releases. They are important in the newspaper industry. By way of press releases, we find out what governments are up to, what organizations have planned for programs or meetings, what local events might be happening and a whole host of other items.

The problem is a newspaper can’t live on printing press releases. A newspaper needs ads to survive. And surviving isn’t enough, a business needs to thrive, to pay the print bill, distiribution costs  and oh, yes, the staff.

Due to lack of advertising, Manitoba has lost around 20 newspapers over recent years. Sad, but true. 

So where has some of the advertising gone?

A few years ago, some bright souls in government (and many government agencies) decided they could save a lot of money by putting information on the internet and social media.

It only works when the particular social media has a large number of subscribers in the target area. Unfortunately, it doesn’t serve much purpose if the event is in a local Manitoba town and there are few local subscribers seeing it. That’s the problem with social media, millions of out of area  viewers don’t do you much good if it’s a local event or message. Social media is like cable TV, there are so many choices that it is difficult to know where to advertise. If it’s a local event, you have to advertise locally. Local may mean your home town, your region or your province. Regardless, you have to advertise to a target market.

It’s pretty galling to newspaper people that governments and companies spend great gobs of cash on social media and the money goes out of town, the province and even the country. It’s close to criminal that governments take our tax dollars and send them to California for ads on websites and social media.

So that brings us back to press releases. When they come from government (or political parties), we pretty much ignore them and I have made it very clear to the appropriate agencies. Governments have a moral obligation to tell taxpayers what they are doing or promoting. That said, newspapers have no moral obligation to publish their stuff for free.

The same goes for companies and organizations. They want customers to join their group or to buy their products as the case may be. Again, newspapers are not obligated to publish their stuff for free. As a side note, it’s always interesting to find that many businesses can provide certain products or services but people don’t even know about them.

With  consideration of local groups and organizations, newspapers are generally a little more open to local press releases. Many newspapers, such as this one, are free disturibution papers. Their only income is advertising. It’s important that newspapers get local press releases about local events from yard sales to concerts. As noted near the beginning of the column, newspapers can’t live on press releases. Local groups need to work with their local paper. For example, the earlier you get the press release and ads to their paper, the better. One ad is good, two or three are better. Just think how many times a day or week that TV ads run. It’s because repetition is effective. Annoying perhaps, but effective. Local organizations can often leverage a deal with a newspaper. 

By now, I have probably bored everyone but the message is simple. Manitoba probably had 100 local newspapers at one time and there are only about 35 left. Businesses, organizations and governments all need newspapers because they are still effective carriers of information. Local communities need the newspapers for the same reason. Just ask the communities who lost theirs.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.