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The Penny Press: Benjamin day

Posted by: | April 9, 2016 | No Comment |

Benjamin Day began printing “The Sun” in New York City on Sept. 3, 1833. The slogan of the paper was “It shines for all,” and it was sold at the price of 1 penny. The Sun offered its readers stories of human interest, crime, tragedy, etc., such information made the paper appealing to its readers, reaching a mass audience as a result of its affordable price. Its success was based on its ability to attract a large and working class audience as well as newly arrived immigrants who could now afford to read a newspaper.

source: mhhe.com

source: mhhe.com

Technological advancements greatly aided the day, the most important being the steam engine. After purchasing a steam press of his own, day was able to significantly increase his production. According to Mitchell Stephens in his book A History of News, ”By 1840 4,000 copies of the Sun could be printed per hour; by 1851 the Sun’s steam powered press were turning out 18,000 copies per hour.”

Other papers were priced at 6 cents, so the penny press in many ways made newspapers available to everyone in the public not just limited to upper class citizens. One of the main distinguishing factors of the penny press was that it heavily relied on advertising. Advertisements provided a large amount of revenue, enabling them to continue to sell papers at a low price.

At the very top of the first column of the front page of The Sun the following was printed: “The object of this paper is to lay before the public, at a price within the means of everyone, all the news of the day, and at the same time offer an advantageous medium for advertisements.”

Benjamin Day truly was one of the pioneers of his era. Other than the fact that he relied on advertising rather than subscriptions, he also revolutionized distribution. James Surowiecki of The New Yorker wrote, “He sold them to newsboys in lots of a hundred to hawk in the street. Before long, Day was the most important publisher in New York.” Day imported the London Plan to the U.S. This was a system in which paper carriers bought newspapers in bulk from publishers such as Day. They would then proceed and sell these papers to the public for a profit.

The Sun was the first to print about a story of suicide, which was the first account, printed of an ordinary person in society. The Sun and its success also made hiring reporters viable. Day was the first publisher to hire reporters that went out and collected stories.

source: wikipedia.org

source: wikipedia.org

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