A newspaper is a lightweight and disposable periodical, usually printed on low-cost paper called newsprint, containing a journal of current news in a variety of topics. These topics can include political events, crime, sports, opinion, and weather.
Newspapers have also been developed around very narrow topic areas, such as news for merchants in a specific industry, fans of particular sports, fans of the arts or of specific artists, and participants in the same sorts of activities or lifestyles.
The general variety is issued every day, often with the exception of Sundays and some national holidays. Weekly newspapers, printed once a week, are also common; they tend to be smaller and less prestigious than daily papers.
Most nations have at least one newspaper that circulates throughout the whole country, but in the United States and Canada, there are few truly national newspapers, with the exception of USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Large metropolitan newspapers with expanded distribution networks such as the New York Times or Toronto's Globe and Mail often fill the national paper role.
Regular publications have been created and distributed by governments for millennia, including Acta Diurna, a listing of events ordered by Julius Caesar in Ancient Rome in 59 B.C., and Mixed News, published in China in 713 A.D.
According to the World Association of Newspapers, the first titled English language private newspaper, The Corante, was first published in London in 1621. In 1631 The Gazette, the first French newspaper, was founded. And in 1645, the oldest newspaper still in circulation, Post-och Inrikes Tidningar of Sweden, began publishing.
In 1690, Publick Occurrences in Boston became the first newspaper published in America. It was suppressed after one issue.
In 1803, just 15 years after the first British penal colony was established, Australia's military government published the Sydney Gazette and the New South Wales Advertiser, Australia's first newspapers.
Most modern newspapers are in one of three sizes:
- broadsheets (29� by 23� inches), generally associated with more intellectual newspapers.
- tabloids: half the size of broadsheets, and often seen as sensationalist in contrast to them.
- "Berliner" or "midi" (470×315 mm), used by European papers such as Le Monde.
They are usually printed on a thin, somewhat rough paper known as newsprint. Since the 1980s, many newpapers have been printed with three-color process photography and graphics. This highlights the fact that the layout of the newspaper is of major importance in getting attention so readers will see and enjoy large sections of the newspaper.
Circulation and readership
The number of copies sold on an average day is called the newspaper's circulation, and is used to set advertising rates. In the United States at least, circulation has been declining for many years.
United Nations' data from 1995 indicates that Japan is the country with most newspaper readership. It has three daily papers with a circulation well above 4 million. Germany's Bild, with a circulation of 4.5 million, was the only other paper in that category.
USA Today has daily circulation of approximately 2 million, making it the most widely distributed paper in the U.S. However, the validity of USA Today's circulation figures are disputed by some in the newspaper community. This is because of the paper's contracts with hotels. Many of its papers are delivered to hotel guests who don't realize they are being charged for it.
Almost all newspapers make almost all their money from advertising. The income from the customer's payment at the newsstand is a pittance in comparison. That is why all newspapers cost little and some are free. The portion of the newspaper that is not advertising is called editorial content or editorial matter."
Publishers of commercial newspapers strive for higher circulation so that advertising in their newspaper becomes more effective, allowing the newspaper to attract more advertisers and charge more for the service. But some advertising sales also market demographics: Some newspapers might sacrifice higher circulation numbers in favor of an audience with a higher income.
Many paid-for newspapers offer a variety of subscription plans. For example, someone might only want 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 only available for a matter of days or weeks, or readers must register and provide personal data. In other cases, extensive free archives are provided.
Since newspapers began as a journal, or record of current events, the profession involved in the making of newpapers began to be called journalism. Much emphasis has been placed upon the value of the journalist to be accurate and fair in the historical record. (See Ethics).
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, rather than to inform. The more 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. Charges of sensationalism have diminished to a degree. But credibility is questioned because of anonymous sources; errors in facts, spelling, and grammar; real or perceived bias; and scandals involving plagiarism and fabrication. Newspapers have often been owned by so-called press barons, either as a rich man's toy, or used as a political tool.
Even though the opinions of the owners are often relegated to the editorial section, and the opinions of the readers are in the op-ed ("opposite the editorial page") and letters to the editors sections of the paper, newspapers have been used for political purposes by insinuating some kind of bias outside of the editorial section and into straight news. For example, the New York Times is often criticized for a leftist slant to its stories, whereas the Wall Street Journal has a history of emphasizing the position of the right.
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
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 New York in June 2004, reported circulation increases in only 35 of 208 countries studied. Most of the increase came in developing countries, notably China.
A report at the gathering said China tops total newspaper circulation, with more than 85 million copies of papers sold every day, followed by India with 72 million — China and India are the two most populous countries in the world — followed by Japan with 70 million and the United States with 55 million. The report said circulation declined by an average of 2.2 percent across 13 of the 15 countries that made up the European Union before May 1. The biggest declines were in Ireland, down 7.8 percent; Britain, down 4.7 percent; and Portugal, where numbers fell by 4.0 percent. One growth area is the distribution of free newspapers, which are not reflected in the above circulation data. They grew 16 percent in 2003.
Another growth area is high-quality tabloids, particularly in the UK, where several of the major broadsheets are experimenting with the format (see Broadsheet#Switch to smaller sizes). Smaller and easier to hold than broadsheets, but presenting real journalism rather than traditional tabloid fodder, they appear to have drawn some younger readers who are otherwise abandoning newspapers.
Newspapers also face increased competition from the Internet for classified ads, especially for jobs, which have long been a key source of revenue.
Newspapers in different countries
U.S. dailies commonly separate the physical newspaper into sections on particular topics. Most major American cities' papers will have sections covering at least a few of the following topics:
- National and international news, usually the the first section.
- Local and regional news, usually the second section. This is often called the metro (from metropolitan) section. Many large newspapers use "zoning," with different zones, receiving somewhat different articles, or the same articles arranged differently. Zoning is most predominant in the local section, but also plays a role in the front page.
- Classified ads
- "Features": This may include Arts, Home furnishing, Fashion, Style, or some combination. This section usually also includes general advice columns and amusements, such as comics, horoscopes and puzzles.
- A weekly general-interest magazine-type feature, usually appearing on Sunday, such as Parade, USA Weekend, or their own magazine (for larger papers) such as The New York Times Magazine or the Washington Post Magazine.
- Weekend or Entertainment. This section includes many ads for upcoming entertainment events which usually occur on the weekend; this section usually appears on a Friday, or the last newspaper printed before the weekend.
- Comics. Typically only a separate section on Sundays; daily papers will include a page or more of comics in another section.
- Opinion or Editorial. Includes both editorials by the newspaper's editorial staff and letters to the editor from readers. Typically only a separate section on Sundays; daily papers will include these materials in the back of the national, regional, metro, or local news sections.
There is often an implication that tabloids cater for more vulgar tastes than broadsheets. Within the tabloid category some titles are classed as red-tops because of the design of their front pages. This term is often used deprecatingly by newspapers that consider themselves more serious. This distinction began to be blurred in October 2003 as two broadsheet newspapers — The Independent and The Times — began to trial tabloid editions in some parts of the U.K. The Independent switched entirely to producing what it prefers to call a compact edition from May 2004 and The Times changed to this format at the beginning of November 2004, despite initial opposition to from its more traditional and conservative readership. The Guardian is expected to switch to the unusual (for the U.K.) "Berliner" format, slightly larger than a traditional tabloid, sometime in 2006.
Most areas also typically have one or more free local papers, with extensive classified advertising.
In Germany, the distinction between serious and tabloid papers is usually made according to whether they are available on subscription. The more sensational tabloids such as Bild are commonly called Boulevardzeitungen (boulevard papers), because they are normally available at the newsstand only; by contrast, the more serious Abonnementzeitungen (subscription papers) sell a large amount of their circulation to subscribers.
- Freedom of the press
- Graphic design
- History of British newspapers
- List of newspapers (by country)
- List of common newspaper names
- Mass media
- Newspaper circulation
- Propaganda model
- Who Owns What, by Columbia Journalism Review, USA
- World Association of Newspapers professional association