School Yearbooks Thriving Despite Technology and Pandemics

In 2007 many schools speculated that yearbooks would move in large part to DVDs. Then it was on Thumbdrives and then PDFs. Through it all, every school in America still publishes a traditional print yearbook no matter what technology comes along and no matter what pandemic strikes.

In 2020, the pandemic brought perhaps the most important year in yearbook history. Book sales soared nationwide and schools who thought they needed to cut pages after sports and clubs were cancelled ended up adding pages. Yearbook, it turns out, was the once sense of traditional and normalcy in 2020–something school communities were starving for. Schools that at first thought they would push back their ship dates suddenly begged their yearbook companies to ship the books before traditional graduation dates, even if the books were shipped to homes or distributed via drive-thru pickups. The page coverage shifted from sports and clubs to more engaging student life journalism, such as how students dealt with distance learning and what everyone was doing to get through COVID-19

Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was technology that many thought would reduce the popularity of yearbooks, but there was an inverse effect: As students became inundated with social media and all things digital, yearbook became…cool. Suddenly print was the unique standout medium, and it best suited aspiring student photographers, writers and designers. It provided something tangible and forever. In a world where social media comes and goes, yearbook remained the one permanent record of the school year. It remained a social rallying piece when it arrived and friends wanted to capture friends signatures and words of friendship to immortalize.

Yes, yearbook remains alive and well. We would be more concerned about Facebook and even Google in 50 years.

For further reading, check out this great article from the Kansas City Star entitled, “Hardback School Yearbooks Thrive Even in the Digital 21st Century.

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