The History of the Media

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The History of the Media

From Monastery to Profitability

From the beginning of printing in the Western world, around 1450, publishing rapidly

expanded from monasteries to stationers who produced and sold hand-copied books in

limited quantities. Since Europe's stationers and printers had increasing commercial

incentives to publish and sell books, they sought more titles and distribution channels.

As businesses developed a pro. t motive for expanding the ranks of the reading public,

the new print media left the limited distribution of early manuscripts behind and began

reaching for larger audiences.

Starting in 1517, the religious conflict fomented by the Protestant Reformation helped

the printers' cause. Reformation leaders relied on the printing press to promulgate their

theology, becoming perhaps the reform movement in history to use print to promote

its cause. The Counter-Reformation (starting around 1570) also used print to persuade

its followers. Protestants encouraged Bible reading, which helped foster literacy.


accelerated in the 1600s, when Germany's Petist movement and England's Puritans promoted daily Bible study. Traders on early commercial routes carried written messages as well as cargo. And,

by the late-1400s, private postal networks linked much of Europe, aided by state postal

systems in France (from the late 1400s) and England (from 1516). These systems

extended service to individuals to recoup costs and monitor private communications. By

1600, these postal links helped create news networks with correspondents who provided

economic and political news. This gave rise to commercial newsletters which printed

commodity prices and exchange rates as early as the late 1500s. The . rst public news

compendium appeared weekly in Austria in the early 1600s. By 1620, seven major

European cities had weekly newspapers. Although newspapers were banned in England

until 1636, their development accelerated as the English revolution brewed. As of 1712,

some 20 weekly papers were...