Quartz obsesses over Victorian newspapers

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Quartz‘s daily Obsessions e-mail is a rather wonderful thing, in its randomness. Some days, the e-mail gets deleted unread, because I have neither the time nor the inclination to read the subject on offer, and some days I devour it. The fact that’s it’s a deep dive on a completely random subject every day means that it genuinely surprisises me with things I didn’t know I wanted to know.

Last week, an issue dropped which will be of interest to many people reading this, I think: Victorian Newspapers.

It starts with an expert on Victorian newspapers getting more than a little annoyed by the presence of a newspaper with a large headline on it in a period piece about Charles Dickens:

I've just watched the trailer for the new Dickens movie. I'm not usually bothered by inaccuracies in historical dramas, but I'd like to politely request that film makers STOP PUTTING MASSIVE HEADLINES ON VICTORIAN NEWSPAPERS. pic.twitter.com/GdOFi9u6G6

— Dr Bob Nicholson (@DigiVictorian) November 25, 2017

As Nicholson went on to explain, giant newspaper headlines did not exist during Dickens’ lifetime. In fact, the front page of most contemporary papers contained no headlines at all—they were smattered with text-dense chunks of advertisements. Interestingly, it was a slew of 19th century technological innovations and policy changes—the very kind that Dickens loved writing about—that created the paper as we know it today.

It’s a lovely piece of context for today’s discussion about the future of newspapers, and a reminder that today’s digital transition is just the latest step in a long process of change and evolution.

I particularly enjoyed this Daily Mail cover from the early 20th century:

Early 20th century Daily Mail

“Servants seeking situations”…

historynational newspapersnewspapersquartz

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.