Day 548 - Victory Square
When Swedish Press started as a weekly in 1928, it had its own printing press in its own building at Victory Square in the center of Vancouver. The building is no more, but we thought that the square would be the perfect end point for the Swedish Press tour “Around Swedish America in 548 Days”. The editors will be there celebrating, because this has been an exhausting journey back and fourth across the continent!
If you have followed our trip, you know that it was planned for 365 days during 2009 when we celebrated the 80th anniversary of Swedish Press. But things change as they always do for something as unique as the only Swedish paper left in North America (except for Nordstjernan in New York). There were places that just had to be included. And there were places that readers suggested. We just hope that you have enjoyed our journey and we will keep it on the site for all those who want to find out more about the interesting places with a Swedish connection that we have visited.
Ever since I took over as Editor of Swedish Press I have wanted to make a trip like this through Swedish America. There are so many places where Swedes settled and left markers of all kinds, from the base camp where the Viking’s first landed at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland to Ann-Margret’s handprints outside the Mann Chinese Theatre in West Hollywood. There are thousands of Swedish landmarks worth visiting. Some I have been to through the years (and you can read about many of them at “Places” on our NordicWay.com web site). But during a jubilee year like 2009, when Swedish Press celebrates 80 years of publishing, we really wanted to get on the road for the ultimate Swedish American trip. (The idea was to get input from local experts and then drive across the continent in a car with a “Honk if you are Swedish” bumper sticker and try to meet with as many subscribers and locals as possible. I had even talked to Volvo about transportation and to local Swedophiles who had promised to guide and house me). Then I had a reality check. I simply did not have the time. (The trip will have to wait until I retire.) So that is why we decided on the next best thing: Thanks to modern technology we were going to do a virtual “Around Swedish America in 365 Days” tour.
When Swedish Press started in the Fall of 1928, there were five employees and the paper had its own building and printing press on Victory Square in Vancouver. The weekly was the hub of Swedish activity in British Columbia and in the following years the succession of editors could take credit for founding Vancouver organizations like the Swedish Cultural Society and the Swedish Charitable Association as well as starting language classes, radio programmes, camps, and organizing various events like Lucia. The paper always played a central role in the community, was always in financial trouble, and has moved around Vancouver many times. At one time Svenska Pressen was even sold to the much larger Svenska Posten in Seattle, only to reappear as Nya Svenska Pressen a year later. Many remember legendary editor Matt Lindfors who ran Swedish language courses, radio programs and an ambulatory cinema with Swedish films. He also started the Swedish Cultural Society, and the bingo fund-raising to keep the paper alive. Sture Wermee took over as editor after Lindfors and when his successor, Jan Fränberg called its quits in 1985, Anders Neumuller was talked into saving the broadsheet that he re-designed into a monthly magazine.
Much has been written about the struggles of the first few decades of publishing and how and why Swedish Press managed to outlive the many Swedish American publications that have existed through the years. Now many readers are curious about how the publication works today. This, our 81st year, is probably as good a time as any to present a snapshot. Today Swedish Press physically consists of only two powerful computers with the latest software and other accessories as well as the two hard-working editors Anders and Hamida Neumuller who try to keep their subscribers, spread out over every US state and every Canadian province, in touch with everything of Swedish interest. The paper resides in a home office in a town house on the west side of Vancouver but it could be anywhere in North America with most communication, including the transmission of ready to print pages to the printers, being carried out electronically.
“This is one of the best jobs in the world,” says the editor Anders Neumuller. “First of all you get to meet a lot of very interesting people. In essence you organize your work as you see fit. You have the freedom to choose the contents of the magazine.” Anders has interviewed everybody from Björn Borg to the King and he has explored all there is of Swedish interest in places like Chicago and Montreal, St Petersburg and even Egypt. “If you like travelling, there is so much of Swedish interest to find. There is a lot of surfing of the web. But the best part is reading all the magazines and papers and books that you can fit in.” Writing comes easy to Anders who has authored nine books, as well as to Hamida, who was an information officer used to communicating, when the couple lived in Sweden. It is interesting to note that of five editors during the last seventy-five years, only one has been a journalist by profession.
In today’s publishing world, however, you have to be more of an entrepreneur than a writer. You have to be somewhat of an all-rounder - have a few marketing skills, communication skills, an understanding of business and, above all, be a people person. The salvation for a publishing outfit like Swedish Press has to be software and external specialists and freelancers for everything that you cannot manage yourselves. All this is well in place. Anders takes care of the lay out and the graphics, because he has a background in advertising and has worked as an art director. Advertising, distribution, mailing privileges and subsidies, listings and contacts are other things that are well established.
The market for a Swedish paper is potentially enormous as there are some 4,680, 000 people with a Swedish heritage residing in the US, and in Canada that figure is estimated to be 236,000. Through the years there have been between 2 000 and 3 000 Swedish publications in North America, but today it is only Swedish Press and the twice monthly Nordstjernan in New York that has survived. In the 24 years that Anders and Hamida Neumuller has run the Swedish Press, the readership has grown almost ten-fold, but that has not necessarily translated into a growth in advertising revenue, that is the most important source of income for a magazine. There are regular advertisers like SAS, Ikea, Volvo, Saab, SKF and local businesses but the challenge is to get many more to understand the potential of the readers. Swedish Press is sold in many magazine stores as well as in Swedish American stores all over North America. This distribution is taken care of largely by agents. There is always about 20% in Swedish in Swedish Press, but a group of volunteers translate those parts and email them to those readers who want the translation.
In 1994 Anders Neumuller started the Scandinavian Press, a quarterly in English covering news from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. There is enough material to make this into a monthly, something there is clearly a market for. However this would involve an expansion of the physical facilities that the editors do not feel ready for. Both magazines are also available in electronic versions. Anders likes these “green” editions because they are environmental and in full color. Best of all they are less expensive to subscribe to, while the “paper magazines” will always increase in price because postage and production prices are constantly going up. The electronic version costs only a third of the “paper version” for subscribers outside North America and they get the paper much quicker than with the ‘snail mail’.
The magazines also have their NordicWay.com website which is being filled with archived material and developed continuously. One of the side businesses is the marketing of the classy “three crowns” products with the Swedish Press logo, offered in the magazine. Swedish Press is regarded as a very strong Swedish American trademark and this works as a good promotion for the products.