What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Several Advertisements which came to late, will be inserted in our next.”
John Holt, the printer of the New-York Journal, devoted more space to advertising than to news in the November 28, 1771, edition. In addition to the standard issue that consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half, Holt also distributed a two-page insert. Of the eighteen columns spread over six pages, ten consisted of paid notices. Yet Holt did not publish all of the advertisements submitted to his printing office.
In a brief note, the printer advised that “Several Advertisements which came to late, will be inserted in our next.” Like other printers, Holt depended on advertising revenue to make publishing his newspaper a viable enterprise. At the end of each issue, he listed the fees in the colophon: “Advertisements of no more Length than Breadth are inserted for Five Shillings, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after, and larger Advertisements in the same Proportion.” The notices that did appear in the November 28 edition represented significant revenue, but Holt did not want to risk alienating others who sent advertisements with the expectation they would run that week. Some printers required advertisers to pay for their notices in advance, extending credit to subscribers but not to advertisers. Holt did not include that provision in the colophon, but advertisers might have known of such a policy through other means, especially those who previously placed notices in the New-York Journal. If payment arrived with advertisements received too late for publication in the current issue, then Holt certainly wanted to reassure those customers that they would indeed see their notices in print at the earliest possible opportunity.
The printer may have expected his notice to resonate with prospective advertisers as well. He demonstrated that he published advertisements in a timely manner, but encouraged them to submit items as early as possible in order to increase the chances that they would appear in the issue currently in production. Establishing such expectations helped in preventing frustration or misunderstandings, cultivating positive relationships with customers who might otherwise choose to place their notices in another newspaper published in New York.