Quinn Weldon, David Varney, Austin Anderson, Taylor Wright


It is important to understand how our print media evolved over time from 3500 BCE when the Sumerians used wet clay tablets, to the media that we have today in 2017, such as newspapers, books, magazine, as well as so much more. There have been many technological advancements and many influential people that have marked a major shift in aspects of print media, such as Johannes Gutenberg and his first printing machine or the invention of paper by the Chinese, as well as the release of the first e-books, which marked a major turning point for print media.

Throughout this section the history and the important technological advancements will be outlined and explained for the three major categories of Print Media; Newspapers, Books, and Magazines. Each of these topics and how they changed throughout the years such as, books to e-books, and Newspaper companies migrating from traditional print media to publishing on online platforms. As well, a link will be provided to an online timeline that will demonstrate the how history has changed over time as well as how recent a lot of our changes have taken place.

The History of Books 

The history of books didn’t actually start with a book. It didn’t even start with words on a page. The first form of written communication was that of the Sumerian people, inscribed on stone tablets in 3500 BCE were the symbols of their primitive language. These simple scrawlings upon stone may not seem like much but it began the history of written communication between humans. Later on in 600 BCE the first standardized writing system was developed and some of the notions that it presented are still seen in modern languages today. One example being, writing from left to right.

Just under 1000 years after the first symbols on stone tablets on the Sumerian tablets the development of papyrus scrolls was seen in Egypt around 2400 BCE. These scrolls were made from the papyrus plant and rolled into cylinders to be stored. This development is important because it will eventually lead towards the invention of paper made from tree pulp, a technique developed in china around 105 CE, that is still used today.

The next major development was in 200 BCE by the Roman people was that of the Codex. Codex in Roman means “wood” and what the codex was, was two planks of wood with wax on one side each where words were etched in with a stylus and bound together with cords of leather. This is crucial because it resembled the construction of the book as it is known now.

The next major step to the book as we know it was in 868 CE where the first printed book dates back to. It was made using a technique known as block printing where words were etched into a block of wood and then covered in ink and pressed onto a sheet of paper. Before this point all books and scrolls were written and copied by hand. This block printing technique leads to, arguably, the most major step towards modern books, and that was the invention of the Guttenberg press in 1455 CE by Johannes Guttenberg. This press utilized characters that were cast in lead and arranged in the order of whatever was being printed and then pressed upon the page. This took away the need to make an entire block to print every page that needed to be made.

Guttenberg may not have realized this, but his invention led to a revolution in printing and became the number one way to spread information for decades. And in 1860’s Britain, with education and literacy on the rise, the dime novel was born out of demand for more content to be distributed and read among the population. The dime novel would be much like the comic books of the 1900’s or short episodic novels of today.

The next important event was less of a step forward and more of a step back. In 1933 Germany was in the hands of the Nazi regime and they were trying to get more control of the history and culture of Germany. In an effort to do so, the Nazis began burning books that they thought would work against the ideology that they wanted to impose on the people. Though this is not an advancement, it is still important because it shows the power that books can have and it demonstrates a major censorship of knowledge as a whole.

Next up we see the rise of digital technologies and in 1995, the birth of Amazon. This would be the first time that books are brought publicly to the internet. Before this point books were solely purchased in store or by some other means of ordering. We now see an integration of technology and the print world. And that integration later on begins the e-book market that continues to grow to this day.

The History of Newspapers 

The Early Beginnings of Newspapers 

The newspapers we see and read today have come a long way, first dating back to the BCE era. Significant events mark different turning points in the evolution of newspapers first starting out as pamphlets or sheets of paper with little publications and very irregular schedules. Slowly the newspaper industry changed as more people got involved, once noticing their growing popularity and necessity as a form of communication for current events, the news, and entertainment. As newspaper changes, people and companies started to change as well trying to keep up with the current times, while also progressing.

One of the first documented considered newspapers came from Julius Caesar, a journal that contained daily events called, Acta Diurna in 59 BCE. This was a very small starting point for what was to come for newspapers, but kick-started the industry. From there the first official newspaper that was printed was in Beijing China in 748 BCE. Overtime newspapers came in forms of rags or on sheets of paper that took copious amounts of time and did not reach many people. In the 1830s this changed when steam powered presses were first introduced replacing the original hand powered press. This allowed 4,000 sheets of paper per hour to be printed, double-sided. Then officially in 1833 The Penny Press was introduced, being sold for only one cent and immediately circulating to 8,000 people. After this evolution production and distribution of newspapers really started to take off. The prices of newspapers also started to rise when the interest peaked and people started to recognize this as an industry rather than a hobby.

The Rise 

From the 1830s and on is when newspapers really started to be introduced, many different kinds, from many different places. The New York Herald was introduced by James Gordon Bennet and the New York Tribune by Horace Greely, and the New York Times was introduced by Henry Raymond.  With the rise of many newspapers, there came a lot of discussion. People were now able to get their news, events, and entertainment in a new form than they were used to. With this also came many new journalists and reporters, as the need for them increased. In 1873 the New York Press Club was introduced becoming the first formally organized press club for journalists to gather, discuss, and criticize each other’s work. The New York Press Club is still around today, functioning the same as it was before. From this point many factors start to come into play for newspapers, as technology develops and the audience desires news more than ever.

Advances and Changes

            Now newspapers have been around for a while and commonality of them being distributed daily has sunk in. People are getting their information about what is going on in their everyday lives and the world surrounding them. Journalism starts to make a change as “yellow journalism” reaches its height in the 1880s. This means that the news being reported on is based on faulty assessments and exaggerations rather than the truth and facts. This changes in the 1890s-1900s as more and more journalists start to gain experience in scientific fields. Rather than their reports being story based, they become fact-based, giving their audience more important and relevant information.

Another important advancement in the newspaper is industry that is still around today is the American Newspaper Publishers Association. This is the cohesion of advertising and newspapers, as they start to form what would be a lasting relationship. After a couple of years, the American Newspaper Publishers Association has to start regulating commissions, standardizing advertising rates, and publishing a list of approved ad agencies. This becomes a necessity as advertising in newspapers starts to have a more involved role than before.

With the many changes that take place throughout the history of newspapers, it is crucial that journalists are also keeping up. This is why the National Press Club is introduced in 1908. It is the world’s leading professional organization for journalist and is still around today. It helps journalists improve their skills in meeting the changes of global communication that take place, while also building a world-wide community for this media. In 1933 The Guild is also another advancement for newspapers as it establishes a union for publications and editorial personnel.

What is it Like Today?

            Newspapers have gone through drastic changes from what the use to be to what they are now. From the Penny Press selling for one cent and 8,000 being distributed to now over 56 million newspapers are being sold daily, and even more on Sunday. Compared to where they started out at, that is a significant improvement, but hard copy newspapers are still considered to be on the decline. People use to always read the newspapers daily when they were distributed, but now more and more of them are being digitized. Many newspaper companies can no longer compete with the easy and instant access that the internet provides people. Although they are still prevalent today, you see less and less people reading newspapers, compared to their phones.

The History of Magazine’s

 The three main stages of life are birth, life, and death. The early conception stages of a magazine are like the 9-month pregnancy, you get to announce the name and whether the magazine is going in one direction or another (boy / girl). The realization is that there are more miscarriages in the conception stage than actual births in the magazine world. Many of these magazine ideas never come to fruition, so many it is estimated that only one out of ten ideas reach the birth stage (Husni).

Early Stages of Magazines 

Josse Amman, a Swiss painter published one of the earliest example of pieces that could be considered magazines. In 1586 he printed on plates displaying the fashions of the day. He called his pieces Gynaeceum, sive Theatrum Mulierum or Theatre of Women. The plates were published with the women dressed in various costumes and make-up, regarded as the first fashion magazine. In 1693 The Ladies Mercury was published by John Dunton. The magazine concerned all the nice and curious questions concerning love, marriage, behavior, dress and humor in the female sex, whether virgins, wives or widows. It also carried an answer to correspondent’s section, almost like an early teen vogue (Rowan).

The 18th Century

In 1731 the first mass modern general-interest magazine was published. The Gentleman’s Magazine was published in England as entertainment for young adults. The magazine was based around adult humor and news including essays, stories, poems and political commentary (Rowan). In 1739 The Scots Magazine published their first magazine and to this day remains the oldest consumer magazine in print. The magazine contains articles on Scottish subjects of interest, ranging from music, news, and advertising (Lauder). In the year of 1755, Edward Cave, who created the Gentleman’s Magazine coined the term “magazine”. The word from then on was used meaning a sort of miscellaneous pamphlet with an assortment of media. After 1755 magazine’s starting exploring what it meant to be a magazine, what sorts of news and interests attracted consumer attention. That same year, the first exclusively women’s magazine was published called the Lady’s Magazine. The magazine consisted of literary content, combined with fashion content, and embroidered patterns on the pages and covers to create an eye catcher (Rowan). The question became, what separates one magazine from another that have the same content.

Moving Into a New Era 

Beginning with new innovations and technologies in the early 19th century, 1852 saw mills in Germany began using the waste from cutting wood. The wood waste was used in order to produce a wood pulp for new papermaking. This process of making paper replaced printing on rag-based paper for newspaper and magazine printing. The new paper not only was easier to print on, but absorbed the ink better than the previous papers. With color printing still in its early development stages in the mass media press, Colored News was the first magazine to use color printing in 1855, but closed down after a month due to the cost of color printing at the time (Rowan). While color printing wasn’t popular at the time we would see a reemergence in the early 20th century.

Reader’s Digest was created by DeWitt Wallace and his wife Lila Bell Wallace in 1922. The magazine company has been noted as one of the first notable successes of the twentieth century. What made Reader’s Digests so popular was its design, by condensing and printing them in this new small magazine format they became easily transportable and included the most current material. It made it easy to keep up with the upcoming times (Rowan). In 1923 Time became the first U.S. newsmagazine. Started by Henry Luce and Briton Hadden the goals were just like Reader’s Digest; educating busy readers, condensing the magazine, but having more of today’s news. The publication became the number 1 as the weekly news magazine (“Magazine’s”). Both magazines shifted the trend of magazine topics, creating this buzz around what would soon be known as social media.

Seventeen magazine became the first American magazine created specifically for teenagers in 1944. The magazine’s focus in the beginning was writing articles about work, service, citizenship, beauty and fashion (“Magazine”). As times began to change the magazines followed suit, soon Seventeen began to focus on beauty and fashion. This movement sparked a trend that other magazines, such as Teen Vogue soon followed. These magazines demonstrated if something is popular long enough it’ll solidify and it shapes ideas like the new concept of a teenager. The largest launch of that specific type of magazine was in the metropolitan/regional/state area in the year of 1967 (Rowan). The Rolling Stone is the best example of a magazine that stands the test of time from that year because of their ability to listen to its audience and watch the cultural changes in society. Their original idea was to follow hippie culture, but as music does, it gradually evolved changing into mainstream music. Rolling Stone’s audience changed into the generation that we know today. Rolling Stone is the icon when it comes to musical magazines combined with today’s culture because the team cares what’s popular (Lauder).

The only transitional change magazines experienced in the 21st century was translating their media onto websites. With magazine websites lowering the cost of publishing magazines the companies were able to use the extra money in other area’s. Companies were able to study what having a good website meant. Magazines figured out slowly how to structure their websites to be engaging, the most important aspect of social media. Social media allows for magazine companies to explore the best ways to get their articles seen. The majority of people in today’s world look at their screens more than other people’s faces, the goal is now to get people to look at your magazine on the screen.  (“Magazine”).


Together all this information is important to understand the history of books, magazine, and newspaper in the world of print media because it outlines how we have structured financial models based on the technological advancements, how these technological advancements have impacted society today, such as the creation of multimillion dollar organizations, and how we this will affect the future of many of these industries and the issues they deal with. With this history outline we can also discuss the functions that these media have on our day to day lives.

Works Cited

  • Husni, Samir, and Emily Main. Life After Death in the Magazine Industry. EBSCO Publishing, 2002,
  • Lauder, Tracy. “Magazine Industry, History of.” Encyclopedia of Communication and Information, edited by Jorge Reina Schement, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2002, pp. 575-579.
  • “Magazines.” Market Share Reporter: Trends Over Time, edited by Monique D. Magee, et al., Gale, 2012, pp. 383-396.
  • Pavlik, John V., and Shawn McIntosh. Converging Media: a New Introduction to Mass Communication. Plymouth State University Custom Edition ed., Oxford University Press, 2018.
  • RowanEmily95 Follow. “Magazine History Timeline.” LinkedIn SlideShare, Slideshare, 15 Nov. 2012, www.slideshare.net/RowanEmily95/magazine-history-timeline.
  • Schudson, Michael. Discovering the News: a Social History of American Newspapers. Basic Books, 2011.
  • Thomas, Isaiah. “The History of Printing in America : with a Biography of Printers.” The History of Printing in America : with a Biography of Printers (Book, 1970) [Plymouth State University], New York: Weathervane Books, 1970.


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Introduction to Media Studies Copyright © by Quinn Weldon, David Varney, Austin Anderson, Taylor Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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