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A disruptive innovation in information distribution
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"Every new media brings with it social, intellectual, and institutional conflict/competition." (Postman: 19)

Overview:

Over the past 150 years much has been written on the history of the penny papers, and much of the focus has been on the historical and journalistic significance the papers have had in North America (Cameron; Canada; Schudson). Others have argued against this significance and attempted to dispel the myths surrounding the papers (Nerone). In this wiki I will attempt to examine the penny papers' influence on readership, not through a journalistic lens, but rather through a technological one.

Technological advancements - initiated by the development of steam as a power source - opened up America by land and water. People from within America and those abroad were immigrating to industrialized, urban areas like New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia in record numbers. This surge in population growth created economic opportunities as the growing masses were a market waiting to be tapped. The advancements in printing and the ever growing literacy levels created a land of opportunity for those in the business of information.

Benjamin Day, a printer, living in New York, was one of the first media men to seize upon this new market opportunity, and in so doing, he and his fellow competitors introduced a new product to the masses - a new product, modeled on an existing one, yet catering to a new component of the market. From this perspective Day's new medium for delivering the news to the masses could be regarded as a disruptive innovation. Day's newspaper, The Sun, introduced to the masses in 1833, transformed a market from one that was expensive and limited to one that possessed the attributes of a disruptive innovation - "simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability" prevailed (Christensen: 11).

Early 19th century America saw dramatic technological, political, and social changes; and newspapers, the prominent medium of information dissemination of the time, reflected these changes in the way they were: produced, distributed, and funded.



The times they were a changing...some significant political, technological, and sociohistorical events of the period:

1825. Erie Canal completed.
1828. Webster's American Dictionary of Language published.
1829. Andrew Jackson inaugurated US President.
1830. America's first steam train hits the tracks.
1832. Cylinder press invented.
1833. Anti-slavery Society established.
1835. Oberlin College admits first women to all men's college.
1837. Horace Mann begins life long crusade for public education.
1838. Samuel Morse gives first public demo of telegraph.

Resources