What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The Paper will then be one of the cheapest of its Size, printed in America.”
Newspaper printers collected two revenue streams: subscriptions and advertising. Most did not, however, frequently note in print how much they charged for either subscriptions or advertising. A few inserted such information in the colophon on the final page of each issue, but even those printers tended to list the prices for one or the other but not both. Timothy Green, the printer of the New-London Gazette, was among those printers who did not regularly publish his prices for either subscriptions or advertising. In a notice in the September 21, 1770, edition, however, he informed readers that he was raising the price for subscriptions.
Following an “Enlargement” of the New-London Gazette to a larger sheet, Green determined that “the Labour and Expence of Paper is so greatly Augmented” that he could not continue to operate the newspaper at the current rates except at “a manifest Loss.” Accordingly, he planned to raise the price by eight pence per year, bringing the total to six shillings and eight pence. This represented an increase of eleven percent, yet Green presented it as “so small that it’s presumed no one will think much of allowing it.” To further convince current subscribers and future customers that they should not think much of the new price, Green explained that the New-London Gazette would still be “one of the cheapest of its Size, printed in America.” Compared to other newspapers, the New-London Gazette was still a bargain at a total of eighty pence per year. Still, Green realized that not all subscribers would be satisfied with this explanation. He pledged that “Some further Improvements will shortly be made in the Paper,” though he did not offer any particulars. He concluded by pledging “the greatest Care constantly taken to render” the New-London Gazette “beneficial to the Customers.”
Apparently Green did not consider it necessary to raise his rates for advertising to help defray the expenses of acquiring larger sheets and setting more type for the enlarged New-London Gazette. Even if he at least listed his current rates, that would have revealed the relative prices for subscriptions and advertising. Still, notices like this one help to reconstruct some of the expenses incurred by readers who subscribed to newspapers in eighteenth-century America.