What is a newspaper?

The Australian Newspaper Plan libraries have adopted the following definition of a newspaper:

A newspaper is a serial publication which contains news on current events of special or general interest. The individual parts are listed chronologically or numerically and appear frequently, usually at least once a week but sometimes fortnightly or monthly.

Traditionally newspapers are printed on newsprint paper, usually appear without a cover, folded rather than bound together, with a masthead, and are normally larger than 297 mm x 420 mm in size. They may include supplements such as colour magazines, or other inserts for special features or events. [1][2]

With the advent of digital publishing, digital newspapers are being produced, and are increasingly popular while readership of print newspapers is generally in decline [3]. A digital newspaper is a newspaper created digitally (i.e. born digital) and available online via the Internet. [4] Digital newspapers may be accessed as apps on mobile devices. Digital newspapers are often in the form of integrating resources, with new material integrated into the resource and older content being removed; or they may be serial publications.

Digital newspapers include: [5][6]

  • pre-press digital files used for production of hard copy newspapers;
  • digital editions of hard-copy newspapers. Differences between these editions and the corresponding printed version of the newspaper are generally:
    • continuous stream of content and updates;
    • updates not in editions but headline by headline, article by article;
    • incorporation of multimedia video, audio and other dynamic content;
    • content sourced widely which may include:
      • locally produced or syndicated content;
      • third party-produced content and applications;
      • reader or user-produced content.

They may be accessed through apps on mobile devices.

  • online newspapers that do not have a printed version, or no longer have a printed version.

 Rapid changes in the news environment have created considerable complexity in the way news is distributed and accessed. There are news services that compile news from external services (e.g. news.google.com.au); journalism websites (e.g. The Global Mail); and news websites which are not associated with a printed newspaper but may be associated with some other media entity (e.g. ABC news website; Yahoo! 7 news).


[1] International Organization for Standardization (ISO) definition of a newspaper quoted in CONSER Cataloguing Manual (Library of Congress, 2002 edition, updated to 2006), 33.1 What is a newspaper?

[2] This definition includes:

  • all general interest newspapers mainly reporting events that have occurred within the 24-hour period before going to press;
  • non-daily general interest newspapers (e.g. local and neighbourhood newspapers) that provide news covering a longer period of time, and also serve their readers as a primary source of general information due to their local origin;
  • newspapers that contain current news of special interest, in addition to general information, and are targeted to clearly identified groups. More common types of special interest newspapers include those directed to ethnic or racial groups, labour unions, farming community, religious groups, and political groups;

and excludes:

  • newsletter publications that are intended to report only news of a particular organisation or institution, or that are specifically limited to coverage of a business, industry, craft, market, etc.;
  • shoppers and other publications issued primarily for advertising purposes (CONSER Cataloguing Manual (Library of Congress, 2002 edition, updated to 2006), 33.1 What is a newspaper?).

[3] ‘Future of Journalism’, CQ Researcher, March 27, 2009, Vol 19, No. 12, pp. 273-296, CQ Press; and

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, ‘Life in the Clickstream II The Future of Journalism’ December 2010; http://www.thefutureofjournalism.org.au/foj_report_vii.pdf, accessed 1 February 2013.

[4] National and State Libraries Australasia Digital Collecting Framework, 2013, Appendix Two: Definitions table.

[5] Preserving News in the Digital Environment: Mapping the Newspaper Industry in Transition. A Report from the Center for Research Libraries, April 27, 2011, http://www.crl.edu/sites/default/files/attachments/pages/LCreport_final.pdf, accessed 22 January 2012.

[6] National and State Libraries Australasia Digital Collecting Framework, 2013, Appendix Two: Definitions table.