History of Newspaper Ads

by L. Scott Pishko; Updated September 26, 2017
History of Newspaper Ads

In the United States fifty-seven percent of adults read a daily newspaper and sixty-seven percent read the Sunday paper, according to Professional Advertising of Arlington, Virginia, a full-service agency specializing in print. Of all advertising revenue in the country newspapers receive the biggest share, close to 22% of all advertising dollars are received by newspapers and over 85% of money is spent by local advertisers. The United States distributes over 1,600 daily newspapers with circulation reaching 58 million.

History of Advertising

The first continually published newspaper

The first continuously published newspaper in America was the Boston News-Letter; the first issue was distributed by John Campbell on April 24, 1704 and continues to this day. The first paid newspaper advertisement was an announcement selling real estate on Oyster Bay, Long island on May 8, 1704 and read verbatim:

"At Oyster-bay on Long-Island in the Province of N.York, There is a very good Fulling-Mill, to be Let or Sold, as also a Plantation, having on it a large new Brick house, and another good house by it for a Kitchin & work house, with a Barn, Stable, etc. a young Orchard, and 20 Acres clear Land. The Mill is to be Let with or without the Plantation: Enquire of Mr. William Bradford Printer in N.York, and know further."

Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette

Twenty-five years later (1729) Benjamin Franklin began publishing "The Pennsylvania Gazette " and included "new advertisements." The expense of producing the paper was covered by advertisers, so the cost to readers was virtually eliminated. That meant that everyone could purchase the newspaper, which increased the number of people who would see the advertising and grow the market.

Function

The advent of newspaper ads made it easier for a consumer to see what was available to him, usually at a discount or on sale, and how much a vendor was asking for the item. A picture sometimes accompanied the information. Real estate was popular at the start of advertising as landowners were trying to reach farmers looking for land. The ads were geared toward the man of the house.

Advertising Growth

One of the first advertisers

In 1877 Francis Wayland Ayer opened N.W. Ayer & Son (named after his father) in Philadelphia with $250 and implemented the first commission system based on "open contracts." His clients included Montgomery Ward, John Wanamaker Department Stores, Singer Sewing Machines and Pond's Beauty Cream. In 1882, Procter & Gamble Co. began advertising Ivory soap with an unprecedented budget of $11,000. In 1898, N.W. Ayer helped National Biscuit Co. to launch the first prepackaged biscuit, Uneeda, with newspaper advertising's very first slogan "Lest you forget, we say it yet, Uneeda Biscuit." Eventually, the company launched the first million-dollar advertising campaign for Uneeda. From the 1900s until present day companies have relied on newspaper marketing to sell their products. Brand names such as Campbell's Soup, Kellogg's, Pepsi Cola, and Coca-Cola all have maintained advertising in newspapers for over 100 years.

Effects

With such a rich and long history of advertising in newspapers there is a proven track record of customers responding to these advertisements in a positive way. As long as newspapers are in print there will be advertisements in them--newspapers depend on the advertiser to purchase space to help the newspaper curb costs of distribution. Newspapers and advertisers work hand in hand to get the news out to the customers.

About the Author

Larry Pishko began writing for "The Herald Standard" and "How You Spin It" newspapers and has painted since 1980. Pishko has attended AIU (American Intercontinental University) and received his associate's degree in liberal arts and is currently enrolled at Penn State University to achieve his master's degree in journalism.

Photo Credits

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