The history of newspaper can be traced back to 1400 when the first printed newspaper in the form of pamphlets and broadsides were printed in Germany. The newspapers were handwritten and privately circulated among merchants to pass information about issues such as prevailing economic conditions, war, social interests, and customs. The content of the newspaper was usually highly sensationalized to attract a reader’s attention.
Newspaper’s History in America
The news sheets were the most common form of newspapers printed in ancient America. America’s first news was printed in 1541 in Mexico describing an earthquake that had hit Guatemala. The first American newspaper was published in 1690. However, its publisher was arrested and all its copies were destroyed by the authorities for criticizing the government. In 1722, the colonial government ordered that any publication had to be approved prior to printing. Newspapers were only within the reach of wealthy and literate American who paid for their subscription in advance. The high subscription fee equal to a general laborers’ weekly wages barred many people from accessing the newspapers. The cost of newspapers drastically dropped in the 1830s owing to advancement in printing and papermaking which saw a copy sell at one cent. Increased literacy levels among the population and the advent of the telegraph also helped further the growth of the newspaper.
During the Industrial Revolution, the newspaper printing industry experienced fast growth. There emerged large printing companies that produced newspapers in bulk and distribution channels were developed thus increasing readership. Some newspapers sold more than one million copies in a day. Additionally, technological advancement enabled the newspapers to make detailed illustrations of pictures, charts and diagrams which increased the aesthetic appeal of the newspapers. Even the illiterate and semi-literate members of the community became interested in finding out what was contained in the newspapers which increased readership.
The Civil War also promoted the growth of the newspapers since the accounts of the battlefield could be clearly communicated commanding large readership. The Civil War helped ingrain the culture of reading the newspaper among the American population.
Newspapers in the 19th Century
Newspapers in the early 20th century contained modern day features such as banner headlines, comics, political, sports, and events commentary, photographs, and illustrations. Since making colored newspapers is expensive, most media houses avoided colored prints. The first colored American newspaper was produced in 1891. By 1993, 97 percent of American media houses were using colored prints in their publications. The growth of newspapers faced challenges brought about by an increase in radio production from 1920 and television from 1940. Further, newspaper readership faced the threat from large companies who bought small publications for their political and economic advantage rather than solely for informing the public.
Newspapers in the 21st Century
Currently, the number of printed newspaper continues to decline due to the high demand for digital newspapers. Digital newspapers are less expensive to produce for the media houses while they provide convenience to the readers. However, the future of printed newspapers still remains bright despite the prominence of digital newspapers. An estimated 3 million people read printed newspapers out of the 5 million people who read newspapers in a day. Senior citizens and people living in areas with poor communication channels continue to have a preference for the printed newspapers.