Newspapers are interesting in this day and age for the sole fact that their popularity is diminishing, although, many still rely upon them for local and often international news. I, personally, consume my news through an app on my phone. This phenomena is seen often nowadays, and the consumption of physical news from a newspaper is reduced. In 2015, an Ofcom study done in the UK showed that just 31% of the population consumed news from a newspaper, down 10 points from the previous year (Sweny).
The purpose of a newspaper is to inform a reader on a variety of current issues. This consumption can be anything from advertisements that provide commerce for a business, international issues that occurred recently, television schedules in older days, weather map for the week, stock prices for investors, etc. They are useful mediums for consumption, that are arguably becoming less relevant as the years go on. As mentioned previously, consumption in the UK remained at one third of the population in 2014 but is steadily going down.
A brief history of newspapers begins in China in the years during the Han dynasty (202 BCE to 221 CE). Many cultures had written news of some kind but Chinese culture was one of the earliest written cultures. The Chinese government circulated news through documents called tipao. These documents were printed during the Tang dynasty (618 to 906 CE). Romans also posted daily news sheets which citizens could read in the Roman Forum. These daily postings were called acta, and they included political happenings, scandals, trials, military exploits, and executions (Stephens).
Newspaper consumption by readers started growing rapidly with the invention of the letter press in Europe by Johann Gutenberg. The letter press allowed circulation at an unprecedented speed. With the circulation of newspapers and other material that could be read came a rise in rates of literacy across Europe and the Americas.
The modern newspaper is an invention with its roots in Europe; the oldest ancestor of the modern newspaper appears to have been news sheets that circulated through Venice during the sixteenth century (Stephens). Many other countries soon followed with newspapers. The two oldest surviving European newspapers were published in German, and they are the ‘Strasbourg, Relations’, printed in 1609 by Johann Carolus, and the ‘Aviso Relations over Zeitung’, printed by Lucas Schulte.
Many newspapers decided to go a digital route as well as the physical route. This proved the downfall of many local newspapers due to the consumption of news from news corporations became more commonplace among the youth in Europe and North America. The percentage of youth that consumed news digitally in the UK in 2015 was polled at 59% versus physical at 21% and 23% for radio. (Sweney). News companies need to find a happy medium through physical and digital content that remains profitable for them lest they disappear entirely.
Much needs to be done by news outlets to adapt news consumption to a more modern format. It is closely linked to the decline in Ebooks and the rise of physical books again. Perhaps, there is a certain nostalgia to reading a newspaper while sitting on a toilet, during your morning coffee, or on the bus ride. Newspapers have struggled trying to get readers to become more engaged. The formula for what news is consumed and where to find more news will need to become a central issue sooner rather than later.
Stephens, M. History of Newspapers. New York University Press. https://www.nyu.edu/classes/stephens/Collier’s%20page.htm Accessed January 15th, 2017. Web.
Sweney, M. Newspapers now the least popular medium for news, says Ofcom study. The Guardian. Published December 16th, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/dec/16/newspapers-now-the-least-popular-medium-for-news-says-ofcom-study Accessed January 14th, 2017. Web.
Rosentiel, T., Mitchell, A., Purcell, K., and Rainie, L. The Role of Newspapers. Pew Research Center. Published September 23rd, 2011. http://www.journalism.org/2011/09/23/role-newspapers/ Accessed January 15th, 2017. Web.
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