Compiled by Chris King

400 years

You have in your hands a newspaper. A lot of people talk these days about the 'death of newspapers'. After 400 years, perhaps they are dying. Many people today get their news from the internet or their mobile phones. And one thing is certain: people no longer use newspapers to sell cars or look for friends and relationships.

But for now you can still get the Young Post every day. True, some newspapers have closed in recent years, but most are still going. All the same, they face real challenges. One of the world's most famous newspapers, for example, The New York Times, had to be rescued by a Mexican billionaire.

Moveable type

Many people argue there were no true newspapers before moveable type. Moveable type in Europe was developed in the mid-1400s. The metal letters could be arranged to make words. When ink was put on the metal letters, pages of words could be printed on paper. But some people say the first newspaper was in China. It was called Capital News (or the Peking Gazette). It was issued every day from the 8th century Tang dynasty until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1912. It reported on court events. It was first written on silk, then made with woodblock print, and then, in the 1630s, with moveable type.

Newspapers similar to those we have today began to appear in the early 1600s. Amsterdam, the trading capital of Holland, printed newspapers in many languages. It printed the first English newspaper.

The first daily newspaper to be printed in Britain was called the Daily Courant. It had two columns of print and it was just one page. It lasted until 1735. It was printed in Fleet Street in London. Fleet Street was Britain's newspaper street for nearly three centuries.

The age of the daily

By the early 1800s, newspapers were everywhere. The Industrial Revolution made it possible to produce lots of them very quickly. The Times of London, for example, launched in 1785. Within 30 years it had a printing press that could print more than 1,000 pages a minute. But this brought competition.

The Times was the most influential paper in its day. It was the first to send journalists to write about wars - war correspondents. But by 1830 a printing press had been invented that could print both sides of a page at the same time. This made printing much cheaper. This was the age of the 'penny press'. Suddenly newspapers were available to everyone. Until radio and television arrived, they were everybody's source of news.

A standard format

As newspapers became more common, they started to standardise. Newspapers all have their own position on issues - an editorial position. But their format is similar. The front page and the pages following it contain the main news of the day. An editorial section contains the newspaper's opinions about that news. Independent columnists give their own opinions. A features section has longer and more colourful stories, including travel, food and personalities. Almost all newspapers have a sports section.

The future

For many years now, circulation - the number of people who buy a newspaper - has been falling. But newspapers do not make most of their money from selling newspapers. Newspapers make money from advertisements. Last year alone, newspapers lost about 20 per cent of their advertising worldwide. The problem is there are now so many other places to advertise.

Nobody is sure what the future holds. Some newspapers, like the Christian Science Monitor, are already only available on the internet. As one writer said: 'Papers are dying.'



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