A newspaper is a written publication containing news, information and advertising, usually printed on low-cost paper called newsprint. General-interest newspapers often feature articles on political events, crime, business, art/ entertainment, society and sports. Most traditional papers also feature an editorial page containing columns which express the personal opinions of writers. Supplementary sections may contain advertising, comics, coupons, and other printed media. Newspapers are most often published on a daily or weekly basis, and they usually focus on one particular geographic area where most of their readers live. Despite recent setbacks in circulation and profits newspapers are still the most iconic outlet for news and other types of written journalism.
Features a newspaper may include are:
- Weather news and forecasts
- An advice column
- Critic reviews of movies, plays, restaurants, etc.
- Editorial opinions
- A gossip column
- Comic strips and other entertainment, such as crosswords, sudoku and horoscopes
- A sports column or section
- A humor column or section
- A food column
- Classified ads are commonly seen in local or small newspapers.
There is some debate over which publication was the first newspaper because the definition of a newspaper has been flexible. In ancient Rome, Acta Diurna, or government announcement bulletins, were made public by Julius Caesar. They were carved on stone or metal and posted in public places. In China, early government-produced news sheets, called tipao, circulated among court officials during the late Han dynasty (second and third centuries AD). Between 713 and 734, the Kai Yuan Za Bao of the Chinese Tang Dynasty published government news; it was handwritten on silk and read by government officials. In 1582 there was the first reference to privately-published newssheets in Beijing, during the late Ming Dynasty; by 1638 the Beijing Gazette switched from woodblock print to movable type printing. However, a newspaper by Johann Carolus’s, the Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien published in 1605, is recognized as the world’s first newspaper. The Dutch Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c. of 1618 is also considered by some to be the first modern newspaper since the Relation looks more like a book than what is now considered a newspaper. The newspaper Opregte Haarlemsche Courant from Haarlem, first published in 1656, is considered by some to be the oldest continuously published newspaper, though it was forced to merge with the newspaper Haarlems Dagblad in 1942 by the German occupier. Since then the Haarlems Dagblad appears with the subtitle Oprechte Haerlemse Courant 1656 and considers itself to be the oldest still-publishing newspaper in the world.
In the English-speaking world, Nathaniel Butter is often credited with the creation of the first news periodical in 1622. The earliest papers in the United Kingdom were devoted to politics and government proceedings. In 1702, the first daily newspaper called The Daily Courant was published. In Boston in 1690, Benjamin Harris published Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick. This is considered the first newspaper in the American colonies even though only one edition was published before the paper was suppressed by the government. In 1704, the governor allowed the Boston News-Letter to be published and it became the first “continuously published” newspaper in the colonies. Soon after, weekly papers began publishing in New York and Philadelphia. These early newspapers followed the British format and were usually four pages long. They mostly carried news from Britain and content depended on the editor’s interests. In 1783, the Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first American daily. In 1751, John Bushell’s Halifax Gazette became the first Canadian newspaper. By the early 19th century, many cities in Western and Eastern Europe, as well as North and South America, published newspaper-type publications though not all of them developed in the same way; content was vastly shaped by regional and cultural preferences.
Advances in printing technology during the Industrial Revolution were responsible for turning the newspaper into a widely circulated means of communication. In 1814, The Times of London acquired a printing press capable of making 1,100 impressions per minute. Soon, it was adapted to print on both sides of a page at once. This innovation made newspapers cheaper and thus available to a larger part of the population. In 1833, Benjamin Day printed the first penny press newspaper, The New York Sun. Penny press papers cost about one sixth the price of other newspapers and appealed to a wider audience.
Recent developments on the Internet are, however, posing major challenges to the business model of many newspapers. Paid circulation is declining in most countries, and advertising revenue, which makes up the bulk of most newspapers’ income, is shifting from print to online, resulting in a general decline in newspaper profits. This has led to some predictions that newspapers will shrink or even disappear, although new media technologies such as radio and television never supplanted print media.
A daily newspaper is issued every day, sometimes with the exception of Sundays and some national holidays. Saturday and, where they exist, Sunday editions of daily newspapers tend to be larger, include more specialized sections and advertising inserts, and cost more. Typically, the majority of these newspapers’ staff work Monday to Friday, so the Sunday and Monday editions largely depend on content done in advance or content that is syndicated. Most daily newspapers are published in the morning. Afternoon or evening papers are aimed more at commuters and office workers.
Weekly newspapers are common and tend to be smaller than daily papers. In some cases, there also are newspapers that are published twice or three times a week. In the United States, such newspapers are generally still classified as weeklies.
Most nations have at least one newspaper that circulates throughout the whole country: a national newspaper, as contrasted with a local newspaper serving a city or region. In the United Kingdom, there are numerous national newspapers, including The Independent, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer, The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Daily Express and The Daily Mirror. In the United States and Canada, there are few truly national newspapers, with the notable exceptions The Wall Street Journal and USA Today in the US and The Globe and Mail and The National Post in Canada. Large metropolitan newspapers with expanded distribution networks such as The New York Times and The Washington Post can fill the role of de facto national newspapers.
As English has become the international language of business and technology, many newspapers formerly published only in non-English languages have also developed English-language editions. In places as varied as Jerusalem and Bombay (Mumbai), newspapers are printed to a local and international English-speaking public. The advent of the Internet has also allowed the non-English newspapers to put out a scaled-down English version to give their newspaper a global outreach.
There is also a small group of newspapers which may be characterised as international newspapers. Some, such as Christian Science Monitor and The International Herald Tribune, have always had that focus, while others are repackaged national newspapers or “international editions” of national-scale or large metropolitan newspapers. Often these international editions are scaled down to remove articles that might not interest the wider range of readers.
Job titles within the newspaper industry vary greatly. In the United States, the overall manager of the newspaper — sometimes also the owner — may be termed the publisher. This usage is less common outside the U.S., but throughout the English-speaking world the person responsible for content is usually referred to as the editor. Variations on this title such as editor-in-chief, executive editor, and so on, are common.
While most newspapers are aimed at a broad spectrum of readers, usually geographically defined, some focus on groups of readers defined more by their interests than their location: for example, there are daily and weekly business newspapers and sports newspapers. More specialist still are some weekly newspapers, usually free and distributed within limited areas; these may serve communities as specific as certain immigrant populations, or the local gay community.
Newspapers often refine distribution of ads and news through zoning and editioning. Zoning occurs when advertising and editorial content change to reflect the location to which the product is delivered. The editorial content often may change merely to reflect changes in advertising — the quantity and layout of which affects the space available for editorial — or may contain region-specific news. In rare instances, the advertising may not change from one zone to another, but there will be different region-specific editorial content. As the content can vary widely, zoned editions are often produced in parallel.
Editioning occurs in the main sections as news is updated throughout the night. The advertising is usually the same in each edition (with the exception of zoned regionals, in which it is often the ‘B’ section of local news that undergoes advertising changes). As each edition represents the latest news available for the next press run, these editions are produced linearly, with one completed edition being copied and updated for the next edition. The previous edition is always copied to maintain a Newspaper of Record and to fall back on if a quick correction is needed for the press. For example, both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal offer a regional edition, printed through a local contractor, and featuring locale specific content. The Journal’s global advertising rate card provides a good example of editioning.
Most modern newspapers are in one of three sizes:
- Broadsheets: 600 mm by 380 mm (23½ by 15 inches), generally associated with more intellectual newspapers, although a trend towards “compact” newspapers is changing this.
- Tabloids: half the size of broadsheets at 380 mm by 300 mm (15 by 11¾ inches), and often perceived as sensationalist in contrast to broadsheets. Examples: The Sun, The National Enquirer, The National Ledger, The Star Magazine, New York Post, The Globe.
- Berliner or Midi: 470 mm by 315 mm (18½ by 12¼ inches) used by European papers such as Le Monde in France, La Stampa in Italy, El Pais in Spain and, since 12 September 2005, The Guardian in the United Kingdom.
Newspapers are usually printed on inexpensive, off-white paper known as newsprint. Since the 1980s, the newspaper industry has largely moved away from lower-quality letterpress printing to higher-quality, four-colour process, offset printing. In addition, desktop computers, word processing software, graphics software, digital cameras and digital prepress and typesetting technologies have revolutionized the newspaper production process. These technologies have enabled newspapers to publish colour photographs and graphics, as well as innovative layouts and better design.
To help their titles stand out on newsstands, some newspapers are printed on coloured newsprint. For example, the Financial Times is printed on a distinctive salmon pink paper, and the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport is printed on pink paper. Sheffield’s weekly sports publication derives its name, the “ Green ’Un”, from the traditional colour of its paper, while L'Équipe (formerly L’Auto) is printed on yellow paper. Both the latter promoted major cycling races and their newsprint colours were reflected in the colours of the jerseys used to denote the race leader; thus, the leader in the Giro d'Italia wears a pink jersey.
With the introduction of the Internet, web-based “newspapers” have also started to be produced as online-only publications, like the Southport Reporter. To be a Web-Only newspaper they must be web published only and must not be part of or have any connection to hard-copy formats. To be classed as an Online Only Newspaper, the paper must also be regularly updated at a regular time and keep to a fixed news format, like a hardcopy newspaper. They must also be only published by professional media companies and regarded under the national/international press rules and regulations unlike blog sites and other news websites, it is run as a newspaper and is recognized by media groups in the UK, like the NUJ and/or the IFJ. Also they fall under the UK’s PCC rules.
In 2006, the Flemish daily De Tijd of Antwerp field tested a version of the publication using electronic paper —in which text can be changed, like an online site, but is portable and show on a paper-like substrate— to a few hundred selected subscribers.
Circulation and readership
The number of copies distributed, either on an average day or on particular days (typically Sunday), is called the newspaper’s circulation and is one of the principal factors used to set advertising rates. Circulation is not necessarily the same as copies sold, since some copies or newspapers are distributed without cost. Readership figures may be higher than circulation figures because many copies are read by more than one person, although this is offset by the number of copies distributed but not read (especially for those distributed free).
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the daily circulation of the Soviet newspaper Trud exceeded 21,500,000 in 1990, while the Soviet weekly Argumenty i fakty boasted the circulation of 33,500,000 in 1991.
According to United Nations data from 1995 Japan has three daily papers —the Yomiuri Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, and Mainichi Shimbun — with circulations well above 5.5 million. Germany’s Bild, with a circulation of 3.8 million, was the only other paper in that category.
In the United Kingdom, The Sun is the top seller, with around 3.2 million copies distributed daily (late-2004).
In India, The Times of India is the largest English newspaper, with 2.14 million copies daily. According to the 2006 National Readership Study, the Dainik Jagran is the most-read, local-language (Hindi) newspaper, with 21.2 million readers .
In the U.S., USA Today has a daily circulation of approximately 2 million, making it the most widely distributed paper in the country.
A common measure of a newspaper’s health is market penetration, expressed as a percentage of households that receive a copy of the newspaper against the total number of households in the paper’s market area. In the 1920s, on a national basis in the U.S., daily newspapers achieved market penetration of 130 percent (meaning the average U.S. household received 1.3 newspapers). As other media began to compete with newspapers, and as printing became easier and less expensive giving rise to a greater diversity of publications, market penetration began to decline. It wasn’t until the early 1970s, however, that market penetration dipped below 100 percent. By 2000, it was 53 percent 1.
Many paid-for newspapers offer a variety of subscription plans. For example, someone might want only a Sunday paper, or perhaps only Sunday and Saturday, or maybe only a workweek subscription, or perhaps a daily subscription.
Some newspapers provide some or all of their content on the Internet, either at no cost or for a fee. In some cases, free access is available only for a matter of days or weeks, after which readers must register and provide personal data. In other cases, free archives are provided.
Most newspapers make a majority of their income from advertising; the income from the customer’s payment at the news-stand is small in comparison. The portion of the newspaper that is not advertising is called editorial content, editorial matter, or simply editorial, although the last term is also used to refer specifically to those articles in which the newspaper and its guest writers express their opinions.
Newspapers have been hurt by the decline of many traditional advertisers. Department stores and supermarkets could be relied upon in the past to buy pages of newspaper advertisements, but due to industry consolidation are much less likely to do so now.
In recent years, the advertorial emerged. Advertorials are most commonly recognized as an opposite-editorial which third-parties pay a fee to have included in the paper. Advertorials commonly advertise new products or techniques, such as a new design for golf equipment, a new form of laser surgery, or weight-loss drugs. The tone is usually closer to that of a press release than of an objective news story.
Since newspapers began as a journal (record of current events), the profession involved in the making of newspapers began to be called journalism.
In the yellow journalism era of the 19th century, many newspapers in the United States relied on sensational stories that were meant to anger or excite the public, rather than to inform. The restrained style of reporting that relies on fact checking and accuracy regained popularity around World War II.
Criticism of journalism is varied and sometimes vehement. Credibility is questioned because of anonymous sources; errors in facts, spelling, and grammar; real or perceived bias; and scandals involving plagiarism and fabrication.
In the past, newspapers have often been owned by so-called press barons, and were used either as a rich man’s toy, or a political tool. More recently in the United States, a number of newspapers (and all of the largest ones) are being run by large media corporations such as Gannett, The McClatchy Company, Hearst Corporation, Cox, LandMark, Morris Corporation, The Tribune Company, Hollinger International, News Corporation, etc.
Newspapers have, in the modern world, played an important role in the exercise of freedom of expression. Whistle-blowers, and those who “leak” stories of corruption in political circles often choose to inform newspapers before other mediums of communication, relying on the perceived willingness of newspaper editors to expose the secrets and lies of those who would rather cover them. However, there have been many circumstances of the political autonomy of newspapers being curtailed.
Opinions of other writers and readers are expressed in the op-ed (“opposite the editorial page”) and letters to the editors sections of the paper.
Some ways newspapers have tried to improve their credibility are: appointing ombudsmen, developing ethics policies and training, using more stringent corrections policies, communicating their processes and rationale with readers, and asking sources to review articles after publication.
The future of newspapers is cloudy, with overall readership slowly declining in most developed countries due to increasing competition from television and the Internet. The 57th annual World Newspaper Congress, held in Istanbul in June 2004, reported circulation increases in only 35 of 208 countries studied. Most of the increases came in developing countries, notably China and India.
A report at the gathering said circulation declined by an average of 2.2 percent across 13 of the 15 countries that made up the European Union. One growth area is the distribution of free daily newspapers, which are not reflected in the above circulation data. Led by the Metro chain of newspapers, they grew 16 percent in 2003.
Newspapers also face increased competition from internet sites such as Craigslist for classified ads, especially for jobs, real estate, and cars, the advertising of which has long been key sources of newspaper revenue as well as from online only newspapers. Already in the UK a newspaper called Southport Reporter started out in 2000 and remains online as a recognized newspaper, but only published online and others now exist through out the world. This opens the debate as to what constitutes a newspaper.