Newspapers are typically published daily or weekly. News magazines are also weekly, but they have a magazine format. General-interest newspapers typically publish news articles and feature articles on national and international news as well as local news. The news includes political events and personalities, business and finance, crime, weather, and natural disasters; health and medicine, science, and computers and technology; sports; and entertainment, society, food and cooking, clothing and home fashion, and the arts.
Usually the paper is divided into sections for each of those major groupings (labeled A, B, C, and so on, with pagination prefixes yielding page numbers A1-A20, B1-B20, C1-C20, and so on). Most traditional papers also feature an editorial page containing editorials written by an editor (or by the paper's editorial board) and expressing an opinion on a public issue, opinion articles called "op-eds" written by guest writers (which are typically in the same section as the editorial), and columns that express the personal opinions of columnists, usually offering analysis and synthesis that attempts to translate the raw data of the news into information telling the reader "what it all means" and persuading them to concur. Papers also include articles which have no byline; these articles are written by staff writers.
A wide variety of material has been published in newspapers. Besides the aforementioned news, information and opinions, they include weather forecasts; criticism and reviews of the arts (including literature, film, television, theater, fine arts, and architecture) and of local services such as restaurants; obituaries, birth notices and graduation announcements; entertainment features such as crosswords, horoscopes, editorial cartoons, gag cartoons, and comic strips; advice columns, food, and other columns; and radio and television listings (program schedules). As of 2017, newspapers may also provide information about new movies and TV shows available on streaming video services like Netflix. Newspapers have classified ad sections where people and businesses can buy small advertisements to sell goods or services; as of 2013, the huge increase in Internet websites for selling goods, such as Craigslist and eBay has led to significantly less classified ad sales for newspapers.
Most newspapers are businesses, and they pay their expenses with a mixture of subscription revenue, newsstand sales, and advertising revenue (other businesses or individuals pay to place advertisements in the pages, including display ads, classified ads, and their online equivalents). Some newspapers are government-run or at least government-funded; their reliance on advertising revenue and on profitability is less critical to their survival. The editorial independence of a newspaper is thus always subject to the interests of someone, whether owners, advertisers, or a government. Some newspapers with high editorial independence, high journalism quality, and large circulation are viewed as newspapers of record.
Many newspapers, besides employing journalists on their own payrolls, also subscribe to news agencies (wire services) (such as the Associated Press, Reuters, or Agence France-Presse), which employ journalists to find, assemble, and report the news, then sell the content to the various newspapers. This is a way to avoid duplicating the expense of reporting from around the world. Circa 2005, there were approximately 6,580 daily newspaper titles in the world selling 395 million print copies a day (in the U.S., 1,450 titles selling 55 million copies). The late 2000s–early 2010s global recession, combined with the rapid growth of free web-based alternatives, has helped cause a decline in advertising and circulation, as many papers had to retrench operations to stanch the losses. Worldwide annual revenue approached $100 billion in 2005-7, then plunged during the worldwide financial crisis of 2008-9. Revenue in 2016 fell to only $53 billion, hurting every major publisher as their efforts to gain online income fell far short of the goal.
The decline in advertising revenues affected both the print and online media as well as all other mediums; print advertising was once lucrative but has greatly declined, and the prices of online advertising are often lower than those of their print precursors. Besides remodeling advertising, the internet (especially the web) has also challenged the business models of the print-only era by crowdsourcing both publishing in general (sharing information with others) and, more specifically, journalism (the work of finding, assembling, and reporting the news). In addition, the rise of news aggregators, which bundle linked articles from many online newspapers and other sources, influences the flow of web traffic. Increasing paywalling of online newspapers may be counteracting those effects. The oldest newspaper still published is the Ordinari Post Tijdender, which was established in Stockholm in 1645.
Newspapers typically meet four criteria:
- Public accessibility: Its contents are reasonably accessible to the public, traditionally by the paper being sold or distributed at newsstands, shops, and libraries, and, since the 1990s, made available over the Internet with online newspaper websites. While online newspapers have increased access to newspapers by people with Internet access, people without Internet or computer access (e.g., homeless people, impoverished people and people living in remote or rural regions may not be able to access the Internet, and thus will not be able to read online news). Literacy is also a factor which prevents people who cannot read from being able to benefit from reading newspapers (paper or online).
- Periodicity: They are published at regular intervals, typically daily or weekly. This ensures that newspapers can provide information on newly-emerging news stories or events.
- Currency: Its information is as up to date as its publication schedule allows. The degree of up-to-date-ness of a print newspaper is limited by the need of time to print and distribute the newspaper. In major cities, there may be a morning edition and a later edition of the same day's paper, so that the later edition can incorporate breaking news that have occurred since the morning edition was printed. Online newspapers can be updated as frequently as new information becomes available, even a number of times per day, which means that online editions can be very up-to-date.
- Universality: Newspapers covers a range of topics, from political and business news to updates on science and technology, arts, culture, and entertainment.