The graphs above are sourced from Google Ngrams, a free internet-based service created by Google which allows the user to search the entirety of the published English language for a word or set of words of their choice. (Conduct your own Ngrams experiments at https://books.google.com/ngrams) The more modern graph follows a pretty predictable trend. Use of ‘newspaper’ starts out infrequent in 1800 and steadily climbs, reaching a peak of roughly .0049% of the English language in 1941. This means that in 1941, 1 in every 204 words in the published English language (at least that Google has record of) was the word ‘newspaper’. What was happening in 1941 that caused this peak? The most likely historical cause is the escalation of World War II. The war began on September 1, 1939. On October 11th, 1941, Nazi Germany launched an invasion of the Soviet Union referred to as Operation Barbarossa. Newspapers would have been much in demand as people all over the world sought the latest updates in the war.
The sudden peaks between 1500 and 1700 make less sense. It is more likely that Google is misreading other words or compound words in old texts. This is still an interesting phenomenon to observe. The more modern chart clearly shows the use of newspaper has been steadily declining in recent years. Whether this is because old-fashioned print newspapers are dying out, or whether the current political climate is undermining the trust in newspapers, we cannot be sure. One thing is certain. Newspapers, whether print or digital, are an important part of civilization, past and present.