How Alfred Harmsworth Became the Owner of a Newspaper Empire

On this day, July 15 in the year 1865, the man who revolutionized the newspaper and publishing industry in Great Britain was born in Dublin, Ireland. His name was Alfred Harmsworth, the owner of the largest publishing empire of his time.

Alfred Harmsworth
Alfred Harmsworth (Credit: Daily Mail)

Alfred had an impoverished childhood. He was the eldest of 5 sons. Educated at Stamford School in England, he left school at 16 in his desire to start earning money. He worked as a freelance journalist and later became an editor of a magazine.

The first newspaper that Alfred founded was the “Answers to Correspondents” which promises to give answer to any question sent by readers. It was a huge success that after four years, he began publishing the periodicals “Comic Cuts” and the “Forget-Me-Not” which were also successful. Obviously, he had a nose for what the public wanted to read. Not only that, he also knew the business side of publishing. He started buying almost bankrupt newspapers and turned them around by using eye-catching headlines and illustrations. In 1894, he purchased the Evening News and later the Edinburg Daily Record.

In 1896, Alfred launched the “Daily Mail” in London. It became an instant hit. Among the many innovations he introduced were the serialized stories, banner headlines splashed across the front page and different sections like sports, fashion, women’s issues, and health. Soon, the Daily Mail had a daily circulation of over a million, the largest in the world. In 1903, he started “The Daily Mirror” which also became a hit with the publication of photographs of the Royal Family. Later, he acquired other newspapers such as the The Observer, The Times, and The Sunday Times.

In 1901, Alfred set up the Amalgamated Press to manage all of his newspapers and other publications. It was the largest media group at the time and he became a very powerful man. In 1904, he was given the title Baron Northcliffe and was named Lord Northcliffe.

Alfred died of streptococcus in 1922 at the age of 57. He had 4 children with two women other than his wife, Mary Elizabeth.

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