January 2

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

“Received many intimations and advices, from numbers of our Subscribers.”

Boston Chronicle (January 2, 1769).

When the Boston Chronicle concluded its first year of publication, printers John Mein and John Fleeming inserted a lengthy notice that listed several proposed “Amendments and Additions.” These included “enlarg[ing] the size of our Paper one half more,” starting on the first Monday of January 1769. When that day arrived, however, Mein and Fleeming published a new address “To the PUBLIC” to explain that they had further revised their proposals in response to requests received “from numbers of our Subscribers.” Rather than a larger newspaper delivered once a week on Mondays, those subscribers stated a preference for an “additional Paper on THURSDAY, or SATURDAY.”

While certainly informal compared to modern standards, this feedback amounted to market research for the printers. Mein and Fleeming weighed the evidence before making their final determination about the new plan for their publication. In choosing between Thursday and Saturday for a second edition, they opted for Thursday due to “the greatest number of our Subscribers inclining to have it on that day.” Yet they did not wish to disappoint those who desired a Saturday edition. To that end, they devised an alternative when circumstances permitted: “to oblige our friends, who wish for part of the paper on SATURDAY evening, whenever the southern post arrives before seven o’clock, we shall publish four pages that night.” Subscribers who lived in town could send for their newspapers two hours after the arrival of the post. Any who declined to do so could depend on the newspaper being delivered on Monday as usual.

Mein and Fleeming underscored that they made these changes in acknowledgment of the needs and desires expressed by their customers: “this alteration is made at the request of a great number of our Subscribers, and is designed for the better entertainment of the whole.” The printers made it their “first and principal study to give them satisfaction.” In other words, when presented with the results of rudimentary market research, Mein and Fleeming adjusted their business model accordingly in order to better serve their customers. In so doing, they commenced a new publication schedule unlike that of any other newspaper in the city. The Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, the Boston Post-Boy, the Boston Weekly News-Letter, Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette, and Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette all continued as weeklies. The Boston Chronicle became a semiweekly in response to customer demand, at least according to the address “To the PUBLIC” the printers inserted in the first issue for 1769.