The Evolution of the Newspaper Industry

By Kevin Kohls

While the newspaper industry is trying to adapt to a future where the physical newspaper is a thing of the past, Gale and The British Library are bringing the digital revolution to the 18th century.mid_2016-09-21_15-59-35

In an effort to preserve and expand access to the history of the newspaper industry, The British Library and Gale have partnered to create a digital archive of more than 200 years of newspaper articles from three renowned publications The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, and the Times. This partnership connects researchers to more than 3 million pages of fully searchable digitized articles previously only available in The British Library’s reading room.


To find out more about what type of content is available in the archives you can check out this infographic.  It breaks down the content focus of each publication, who prominent writers were, and details the extent of the three massive collections.

With such an expansive collection available at Gale, let’s take a look at some interesting newspaper articles of the last two centuries and observe how much newspapers have changed in the last 200 years.


It could be argued that the news media today is more or less accurate at reporting breaking news than it once was. However, an example found in the Daily Mail historical archive would most definitely support the latter. A morbid example of misreporting is demonstrated when in the hours after the tragic conclusion of the Titanic’s maiden voyage The Daily Mail ran an article stating no lives were lost when the ocean liner struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. The full April 16, 1912 issue including this article can be found in the Daily Mail historical archive here. 

One of the most common criticisms about news media in recent years is the constant reporting on socialites and pseudo-celebrities. And while the Kardashians were not around 100 years ago, that did not mean that socialites were left off the pages. Caroline Astor who was possibly the Kim Kardashian of her day, was a socialite in the gilded age of New York City. Like Kim Kardashian’s, Mrs. Astor’s wedding was a media event reported in a multitude of newspapers. In an excerpt from the Evening Telegraph in 1883 found here, the lavish nuptials are described:

“The marriage of Miss Caroline Astor to Mr. Richard Wilson has interested society beyond any recent event. The bride’s presents are valued at over a quarter of a million of dollars. The necklace given to her by her husband was worth 75,000 dollars. Over 1000 guests attended the festivities.”

AstorChinaShe may not have been as ubiquitous as a Kardashian but Mrs. Astor nonetheless became a fixture in many newspapers. The Emporia Daily Gazette even went as far as running a whole article about a set of China the Astors purchased in 1899.

While the content matter of newspapers may have stayed somewhat the same over in the past 200 years, how that content is delivered has been in flux for years as newspapers search for more cost effective means of distribution.

One of the largest casualties of cost-cutting was the paperboy. As recently as 1990 70% of newspaper deliverers were bright eyed paperboys (or papergirls) throwing papers on porches but by the 2000s adults in cars had become the most common way to deliver the paper and by 2008 the percentage of paperboys had plummeted to 13%.

Now faced with an increasingly competitive media landscape and a more digitally driven world newspapers have even taken the paper out of the newspaper. Some of the most influential publications such as Newsweek and The Independent have ditched printing presses in favor of a completely digital existence.

The latest pang in what some see as the downfall of the traditional newspaper is the name change announced by the Newspaper Association of America. As of September 7th, 2016, the NAA will be known as The News Media Alliance completely removing the word “paper” from its name. By dropping the word “paper” The News Media Alliance hopes to become a more inclusive organization allowing for online-only content providers such as BuzzFeed and Independent Journal Review.

It seems the advent of the internet and the digital media that came with it may spell demise of the newspaper industry as we know it. However, those same forces are what is helping to keep the history of some of the worlds most popular publications alive.

So while we may not always be able to stain our fingers black with the freshly printed ink of the Sunday paper, Gale is making sure people can always take a glance back in history by looking through 200 years and 3 million pages of digitized newspaper articles.

To learn more about Gale’s collection of newspaper archives and other primary source products visit




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