Why do newspapers use multiple columns?


This might not be the right place to ask, but I was wondering why newspapers use multiple columns? Does it take up less space, or is there a visual reason?

11/6/2012 12:15:00 PM

Accepted Answer

I am amazed that not one of the responses gave the ACTUAL reason which is that it is far easier to work with shorter line lengths when it comes to the type set. This is especially true with the Linotype machine which revolutionized the newspaper industry. These devices actually formed the type set plates as they went along, line by line, creating molds that would be used to form the type. Much easier to make molds that were no greater than 2 inches worth of characters. And before that when laying out the type set was done by hand, it would be much easier to work with smaller lines at once.

10/27/2015 7:12:00 AM

Advertising. While it's a noble idea that it was done for readability, newspapers, in general, have columns that are overly narrow compared to most given readability information/data.

Having multiple columns allows for a very versatile ad grid, and, traditionally, newspapers were in the business of selling ads.

It also allows more stories to appear on the page at once (all being continued elsewhere). This is partially to get more headlines in view of the reader, but also allows for a lot more flexibility for the page layout team to get all the ads to fit. When a newspaper is laid out, all the ads are first put into place, and then the content is flowed around it and, quite often, re-edited to fit the column lengths available.

The bonus side effect is that a reader is now scanning not only across multiple columns (and thereby being exposed to multiple ads) but also has to now flip to multiple pages (again increasing the odds of seeing a particular ad).

And if you go WAY back in time when type was set by hand and/or linotype, you needed a continuous column of type for easy typesetting. Ads were locked up completely separate from the text and you didn't have the ease/opportunity to flow text around elements within the column itself. Keeping columns narrow simply offered the most flexibility for both the ad layout and the typesetting.