Newspaper as the First and Longest-Lived Media Platform

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The newspaper has a long and storied history, with major advancements throughout human history. Mass media as a whole has developed gradually over time, but the newspaper was the first medium for spreading news and advertising to the public. While technologies like radio, television, and the Internet developed later in time, newspapers still exist and are widely read around the world- a testament to their longevity. Because the newspaper was the first and original platform for mass media, for a long period of time the public relied exclusively on writers and journalists for the local newspapers to provide them with the latest updates in current events.

The history of written news dates back to the Roman Empire around 59 BCE. Back then, Rome was the center of the Western world and a hub of innovation. From constructing grid-based cities to inventing concrete, Rome lead the world in technological advancements. Most historians credit the birth of regular written news updates to the Romans. Acta Diurna (which translates to daily public records) which were carved news on iron or rocks, written about politics, military campaigns, chariot races, and executions. They were published on a daily basis and posted by the government in the Roman Forum.

While written news records existed for centuries after the Roman Empire, the overwhelming majority of people could not gain access to them, let alone read at all. The enormous costs of producing news sources made it very difficult to write them, and so the few that existed were very expensive and inaccessible to most laypeople. This all changed with the invention of the printing press, which was created in the Rome Empire by German Johannes Gutenberg around 1440 based on the base of bolts presses. Gutenberg, a goldsmith by profession, established a complete printing system that perfected the printing process over all of its stages by adapting existing technologies to printing target. His newly created mold made it so metal movable type could be accurately and quickly made for the first time, an incredibly significant development in the history of media.

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Within a few decades the printing press had spread to more than 200 cities in a dozen European countries, and via 1500, printing presses in process throughout Western Europe had already formed more than 20 million volumes. In the 16th century, as the printing presses spread even farther throughout the globe, the total output rose to an estimation of 150 to 200 million copies. The process of the press became so identical with the invention of printing that it gave its name to an entire new outlet of media, the press.

Over time, the massive increase in the amount of printed material in the world led to a dramatic rise in literacy as people learned to read in order to appreciate the new works being created. Thus, the invention of the printing press indirectly led to a large number of people learning how to read, since a newspaper has no value if no one can read it. This constituted a major trend in human history, since before the printing press existed reading and especially writing were seen as elite skills reserved for the very wealthy and religious. However, the printing press allowed the average person to gain access to reading material, and so it slowly arose that the populations of countries where there were presses began to desire access to such sources. Eventually, the majority of Europeans and later others around the world gained literacy in order to appreciate the new technological shifts.

After several centuries of prominence and various advances in technology that made it even easier, cheaper, and faster to produce newspapers, especially during the Industrial Revolution, the majority of the world's population could read and had access to newspapers. However, in the 1890s, a new medium came along- the telegram. Radio and the telegram further changed communication by brining it to the global level. Now, it was possible to send a message from one part of the world to another, a further change in human development. This was followed by the rise of television and other additional leaps in technology that made the world a much smaller place. Newspaper continued to exist despite this technological competition, because they were the oldest and most entrenched medium there was. However, newspaper companies did adapt to the times, and eventually news spread to television and radio along with newspaper coverage. These contributed to a decline in newspaper readership, but the real change happened when a brand new technology emerged in the 1990s- the Internet.

The arrival of the Internet greatly changed the nature of print media. With its inception, there was direct competition between reading sources in the real world or in the digital one. In recent times, newspapers have had to adapt to this trend by going digital, and print readership has been declining for decades. Newspapers remain in circulation, and many people still read them, but large numbers of people around the world today get their news online. The fact newspapers still exist, albeit in digital form, shows how important they are to human understanding and how valuable people still see access to news. Newspapers may be a dying medium, but their significance in human history cannot be understated.

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Newspaper as the First and Longest-Lived Media Platform. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
“Newspaper as the First and Longest-Lived Media Platform.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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