Britain's press can trace its history back to more than 300 years. William Caxton introduced the first English printing press in 1476 and, by the early 16th century, the first 'news papers' were seen in Britain. The first regular English daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, was launched with the reign of Queen Anne in 1702. However, British newspapers were slow to evolve, with the largely illiterate population relying on town criers for news.
In 1712, the press was subject to a stamp duty on each copy. Some titles, such as The Spectator went bankrupt because of these taxes, but the 18th century remains a period of innovation and evolution for newspapers. It was during that century that evening newspaper such as The London Evening Post (1727) were created.
There were twelve London newspapers and 24 provincial papers by the 1720s.
In the 19th century, new manufacturing technology made it possible to lower the price of newspapers and then touch the low classes. The development of railways helped to accelerate deliveries and the subscription system was set up.
The invention of the electric telegraph by Morse in 1837 greatly accelerated the transmission of information already transiting by news agencies: Havas (1832), Associated Press (1848), and Reuter (1851).
Then, it was the appearance of some titles still known to us today like The Observer (1791) or The Times. That newspaper was founded in January the 1st 1785, by John Walter, as The Daily Universal Register.
The other major newspapers of the time were The Morning Post; The Morning Herald; The Daily News witch was founded by Charles Dickens; or The Morning Journal.
Illustrations and colors emerged in the 19th century. It was a century of development and innovation. Pictures were first seen in the early 19th. And the first newspaper with colors was printed in 1855.
Newspapers became more affordable when the taxes were done away with, and a new category appeared: the popular press such as The Daily Mail (1889). Two different categories of newspapers came on to the market: the broadsheet, a synonym of quality paper, and the tabloids, the popular press.
The press continued to develop, and by the 1930s, over two thirds of the population read newspapers every day. The middle of the century was the peak of the paper press. The press had an important place in the society. It was the first source of information for people, and it started being called “the fourth power”. The booming of the English press coincided with the British colonial expansion.
The radio and then television started to compete with the press at that time, but harmful competition really came with the unbeatable success of internet in the 1980s. From then on, internet gathered momentum. As an example, some newspapers which sales were increasing before the 80s saw the slowing of their gain, some of them hitting rock bottom. It was the case of The Daily Mirror whose readership dropped by 30%. (3 625 000 copies in 1980 to 2 270 543 in 2000). But that only concerned a minority of the English newspapers; the majority has continued to rise.
The 2007 economic crisis did not touch the English written press, but the slight evolution observed before continued.
However, newspapers have seen a significant decline of their circulation since 2011. In fact The Sun, the newspaper which has the highest circulation in UK, lost half a million of his readership in one year : from 3 000 000 in 2011 to 2 582 000 in 2012. The Independent, which had not dropped between 2010 and 2011, lost more than 30% of its readership in 2012. (185 815 copies in 2010, 185 035 in 2011 and 105 160 in 2012).
Face to this decline, every major newspaper has developed its virtual version.
Today, the English press is lead by the tabloids, but all newspapers are in decline. Despite having remained strong over the last decades, the future of the written British press is now more than uncertain.