The history of newspaper

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We continue to love reading newspapers. Studies show that people prefer print media titles – both for reading enjoyment and as a trusted news source. Perhaps newspapers endure in this way because they are so long established in our political and public lives.

The demise of the modern newspaper has been predicted many times – from the censorship during the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648) through to today’s commercial threats from digital media. Yet the newspaper continues to thrive.

The Business Optimizer team takes a look at some important moments in its history.

27 BCE

The Acta Diurna of ancient Rome were carved on stone or metal and presented in message boards in public places, such as the Forum of Rome. They were daily Roman official notices, a sort of daily gazette.


Italian gazzetta were informal news or gossip sheets first published in Venice in the mid-16th century. Similar sheets soon began appearing in France and England.


The manuscripts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance are rich resources for understanding the historical and literary culture. As sources of contemporary news, they were usually published in response to a single topical event, such as a battle, disaster or public celebration.


Newspapers, or corantos, were published in Amsterdam from 1620. The oldest surviving English language example in the British Library Corante, or, newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France was printed by London printer Nathaniel Butter on 24 September 1621.


The first newspaper published in the American colonies was printed in 1690 in Boston by Benjamin Harris. His Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick ran for only one edition before it was suppressed by colonial officials.


By the eighteenth century, some corantos were being published on a daily basis. The first regular daily newspaper in England was The Daily Courant, which was printed from 1702 until 1735. The Journal de Paris was the first daily French newspaper. It ran from 1777 to 1840. During the century, daily newspaper titles were launched that are still printed today.


The first law protecting the freedom of the press was passed in Sweden.


The Pennsylvania Evening Post was published sporadically from January 24, 1775. Its July 6, 1776, edition carried news about the Declaration of Independence – the first newspaper to do so. The paper started daily publication in spring of 1783, becoming the first in the country to do so. It continued in this format it folded in 1784.


Freedom of the Press was secured in the United States of America under the First Amendment to its constitution.


The Sun was launched in New York City as the first successful penny paper.


The first edition of the New York Times was published.


Paul J Reuter began his foreign news service for the press in London, UK.


Competition between owners of US papers became fierce and led to a period of “yellow journalism” in which lurid and sensationalised stories were prioritised by editors.


Daily newspaper publication reached its peak in the 1920s. In the USA, more than 2,000 daily newspapers were being published and 14,000 weeklies. The use of syndicated columnists and features such as crosswords and comic strips developed. Market penetration was as high as 130 percent.

Late 20th century

By the end of the twentieth century, newspaper readership in the USA had fallen to just 50 percent. A pattern of consolidation and merger began to be seen worldwide.

21st century

Today, China and India top the countries with the highest readerships, thanks to their population sizes. 85 million copies are sold each day in China, 72 million in India, 70 million in Japan, and 55 million in the USA.

With the advent of digital communications, the paid circulation of printed newspapers began to decline, and advertising revenue switched from print to online.

However, newspapers continue to hold an important place in our society. They rank highly as trusted news sources and people continue to prefer printed formats when reading. Publishers continue to experiment with different revenue models, including digital subscriptions and donations, in order to ensure the continued existence of these influential and much-loved publications.

What now?

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