Our Changing Times 

It was 20 years ago today ... sort of.

Confession, they say, is good for the soul. Since we're likely to be outed anyway by long-time readers, here's the deal: This week's Flyer doesn't exactly coincide with the newspaper's actual 20th anniversary. Nope, the first-ever issue of this newspaper didn't hit the streets in November 1989, but nine months earlier, on February 15th.

Alas, February 2009 did not seem a particularly good time for a 20-year celebration. The economy was in the toilet, and our spirits weren't far behind. So we postponed our 20th anniversary issue until this Thanksgiving season, when things might be better and when, hopefully, we'd have a lot to be thankful for.

Happily, here we are today, ready for the turkey and dressing. We're especially thankful for the continued support the Flyer has received, week in and week out, in the midst of this recession, from the local business community. Our revenues may be down a bit, but the number of advertisers we have each week in the Flyer has remained constant.

That's great news, of course, but nowhere near as exciting as the fact that you — yes, you, dear reader — still find what we do in these pages worth finding a rack and picking up a copy of the paper. Every Wednesday, we distribute over 50,000 copies of the Flyer to nearly 700 locations throughout the Memphis metropolitan area. In theory, our drivers could return to those drop-off points the following Wednesday and have to take away many of those 50,000 papers, unread and untouched.

But they don't. In fact, when our drivers do show up that next week, they usually go home empty-handed. At a time when daily newspaper circulation across the country is sinking like a stone, the Flyer's weekly circulation remains relentlessly solid. We put out exactly as many papers this week as we did 10 years ago. More importantly, we have just as many (96 percent on average) picked up by our readers now as we did then.

We like to think that these pick-up rates — and our strong local advertising support — speak volumes about the continued community relevance of this newspaper. As we said in our first press release, way back in January 1989, the Memphis Flyer was created "to enlighten, inform and entertain the people of Memphis." I like to think we've been true to that mission over the past two decades.

The years ahead, however, are going to be decidedly different for everyone in our line of work. Most Memphians, of course, now go online every day, catching up with breaking news and keeping up with their favorite websites. As their reading habits change, we've needed to change our approach.

At the Flyer, we have transformed our own news-delivery systems as dramatically as anybody in town. Memphisflyer.com is now one of the city's premier websites. With a "Daily Buzz" homepage that includes frequent postings, staff blogs that cover everything from Grizzlies basketball to local theater to hard-core politics, and the best event listings in town, the Flyer's community footprint has grown significantly over the past five years, as our collective voice has become considerably stronger.

As for the print edition of the Flyer, we understand the differences between yesterday and today; people are reading newspapers differently, more reflectively, than ever before. But as the Internet Revolution proceeds, our weekly print frequency seems ever more ideal for the delivery of a comprehensive local news and entertainment package. Our readers count on the weekly Flyer to present a snapshot of the local landscape, to bring information together in one place, in a tabloid that can be read at one's leisure.

Print still remains an exceptional way to expand one's cultural horizons, to discover the new, fresh, and different. That's why saying that the web will replace newspapers is like saying that television will replace movies, that automobiles will replace bicycles, that iPods will replace live concerts. Things will change, but what's valuable will remain.

Online and in print, the Flyer staff intends to keep its finger on the pulse of this city. Free-distribution weekly newspapers can peacefully co-exist with sophisticated news websites, and in our case, the two can be one and the same, operating seamlessly alongside each other. We think it's a great fit.

Thanks for reading us, wherever you do so, and thanks again for your support.

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