The death of newspapers has been greatly exaggerated, Rotarians heard Monday.
Peter Kvarnstrom, chairman of the Canadian Newspapers Association board, told a luncheon of the Rotary Club of Kamloops that the print medium is far from extinction.
Kvarnstrom also serves as president of B.C. community media for Glacier Media Group, the B.C.-based publisher of The Daily News and 80 other community newspapers across Canada.
"We really have been our worst enemy over the last decade in reporting on our death or impending death," Kvarnstrom said.
Newspapers were expected to disappear with the emergence of radio in the 1920s, and it was TV in the 1950s and '60s that threatened to kill print media, he said. In both cases, the pundits were wrong, dead wrong.
Similarly, with the advent of the Internet and a flourish of electronic media available through an expanding array of platforms, the end seemed more certain than ever. Two decades on, that hasn't occurred.
"As an industry we've not only survived but have grown considerably over the last decade," Kvarnstrom said.
He recently returned from an industry conference in Kiev, Ukraine, more upbeat about newspapers then at any time in the past decade. Circulation worldwide grew by four per cent between 2007 and 2011. North American circulation fell by 18 per cent in that same period, much of that loss occurring in the U.S., still the world's largest newspaper market.
Major metropolitan newspapers face the greatest challenge publishing what Kvarnstrom described as "commodity content" - news readily available from numerous sources.
But community newspapers have a hedge against that - local content that is unique and not available from other media. They've refocused on content of highest relevance to their subscribers.
While print subscriptions have fallen in some cases, a broader measurement of newspaper reading is found in the level of engagement of all media newspapers now use, including websites.
According to industry research, 77 per cent of Canadians still spend time reading newspapers, either in print or online, weekly. There are more Canadian newspapers - 122 dailies and 1,100 community papers - then there were in 1970.
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