“The readership decline was first taken seriously in the late 1960s, when new information sources began to compete successfully for the time of the traditional newspaper reader. Competition spawned by technology began long before talk of the electronic information highway. Cheap computer typesetting and offset printing led to the explosive growth of specialized print products that could target desired audiences for advertisers. Low postal rates combined with cheap printing and computerized mailing lists spurred the growth of direct mail advertising. In short, the owners of the traditional toll road have been in trouble for some time now, and they know it.” -American Journalism Review, 1995
Well before the Internet, offset printing changed the way that people worked with printed material. It was a technique developed by Ira Rubel in 1903, it involves taking an inked image and transferring it from a plate to a rubber blanket. That blanket is then transferred onto a printed surface.
Offset printing has a number of advantages over traditional letter presses, it allows for higher image quality, longer equipment life, easy plate production and most importantly lower costs. By reducing the cost of printing extremely large volumes of printed materials, offset printing made it economically feasible for companies to produce more and more specialized print products.
Anytime you give people easier access to the means of production, you increase competition and this is exactly what offset printing did, it allowed more content to be created and more choices to become available to advertisers.