This is the first of many trips we’ll take back in time to look at newspapers through the eyes of newspaper writers. We’ll start this segment in 1930, with the backdrop of the Great Depression. Newspaper’s were still in high demand, such demand that Frank Gannett, founder of the Gannett media corporation (which would start USA Today after his death) envisioned a world where newspapers would be 100 pages or more,
“Daily newspapers of a hundred or more pages, illustrated with natural colored photographs were predicted today by Frank H. Gannett, head of the Gannett newspapers, in an address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors.”
“It seems to me there little evidence of a trend toward smaller newspapers,” he said, “smaller either in page size or in number of pages. The tabloids seem to be making little headway except in one or two of the very largest centers of population. And while, as a result of a slight decline in business expansion, there has been a decrease in the average number of pages in most newspapers, this decrease, I believe, is only temporary, and just as we have seen in “the big day” on newspapers in the larger cities climb from 36 to 48 and 64 to 72 pages, we may expect to see them climb until the 100 page point is reached.
According to a study by Northwestern, as of 2001, the Monday-Friday edition of a medium-sized newspaper (circulation of 50k-100k people) was 52.9 pages. The average size of a Sunday edition of that same category of paper was 101.2 pages. If you look at the largest circulating papers (200k+ people) you’ll find the page size increases to 84.7 for the weekend day edition and 217.9 for the Sunday edition.
Note – When he speaks about tabloids he is referring to the size of the newspaper, rather than the supermarket aisle periodicals that we think of today. While that style of tabloid has been around since the early 1900s, it wouldn’t gain sweeping appeal until about 30 years later.