Daily Mail and General Trust plc History
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT
Telephone: (011) 171 938 6000
Fax: (011) 171 938 4626
Revenues: £100.6 million (1996)
Stock Exchanges: London
SICs: 6719 Holding Companies, Not Elsewhere Classified
The Daily Mail and General Trust plc is one of the largest media holding companies in the world. With its main office in London, England, the company owns and operates five main groups, including Associated Newspapers, Northcliffe Newspapers, Euromoney Publications, Harmsworth Publishing, and Harmsworth Media. Associated Newspapers publishes the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, and the Evening Standard. Northcliffe Newspapers, one of the largest regional newspaper publishers in Britain, prints 17 daily titles from 25 centers throughout the United Kingdom. Euromoney Publications is one of the leading international business-to-business publishers, with titles in law and tax, energy and transport, and international finance. Harmsworth Publishing is primarily responsible for the company's informational and educational publishing activities, while Harmsworth Media supervises the company's nonpublishing media activities, including network television, cable television, and commercial radio.
The founder of the Daily Mail, Alfred Harmsworth, was born in 1866, near the beginning of what was later to be called the Golden Age of British journalism. Harmsworth's interest in publishing was encouraged by his father, who purchased a printing set for the young boy's seventh birthday. Although young Harmsworth was a sports enthusiast and&mdash most young men of his upbringing and generation--interested in a great many pursuits, he nonetheless remained enthralled with the world of publishing and during his school years was editor of a weekly magazine in which he wrote a column called "Answers to Correspondents."
After Harmsworth graduated with a university degree, he decided to become a newspaper publisher but in a decidedly different way from all others. There were numerous halfpenny papers published throughout Britain during the latter half of the 19th century, but most of them were printed on cheap paper and written in a dull and wordy manner. Remote from the people, these "halfpenny's," as they were called, did not provide much information for a public that was growing more and more literate and hungry for knowledge about the momentous events happening around the world. With a clear vision and untold amounts of energy, Harmsworth formed a partnership with his brother Harold, later the first Viscount Rothermere, and began working on a bold and radical newspaper, the Daily Mail.
On a spring morning in early May of 1896, Harmsworth shut himself up in his office at 2 Carmelite Street and worked nonstop for the next two days and two nights to write, edit, and produce the first paper in Britain that brought essential information into the homes of working-class people on a day-to-day basis. The initial circulation of the Daily Mail was estimated at 100,000, but by the time the news vendors had sold the final copy of Harmsworth's publication, the Daily Mail had sold out at 397,215 copies. From the very first page, the reading public was enthralled with the Daily Mail. One of the most popular and radical innovations of the new upstart paper was the inclusion of a daily women's page, which not surprisingly attracted intense derision from other newspapers and journals that regarded female readers as beneath journalistic consideration.
Harmsworth is widely regarded as one of the progenitors of modern journalism. He had an uncanny instinct for what was important news and an ability to see the potential in a story even before the events fully unraveled. Harmsworth also displayed an intuitive gift for anticipating public opinion and, in many instances, knew what the public wanted to read in his newspaper. One of the best examples of Harmsworth's talent is illustrated by his persistence in bringing the truth about the Boer War to the people of Britain.
By the beginning of the Boer War in the late 1890s, circulation of the Daily Mail had risen to over one million, higher than any other newspaper in the western world. Harmsworth sent a team of journalists, including Edgar Wallace and George Warrington Steevens, to cover the events and battles between the British soldiers and the Dutch Afrikaners in South Africa. Dispatches from the first female war correspondent, Lady Sarah Wilson, the aunt of Winston Churchill, from the besieged town of Mafeking, brought to the reading public the plight of the British soldier when facing almost insurmountable odds. Yet the British government insisted that all dispatches from South Africa undergo censorship due to the harmful effect military losses might have on public support for the war. In short, Harmsworth was adamant that the truth of what was happening in the Boer War should not be hidden or repressed simply because it was unpleasant.
The British government, forced to listen to the mounting outcry of public opinion, finally relented and agreed to allow one newspaper the right to print uncensored news from the battlefront. After a hotly contested and bitter fight with other newspapers, the Daily Mail finally won the right to print uncensored news from South Africa. Much to the dismay of the government, the Daily Mail published reports which His Majesty's government had been denying for many months. In 1902, at the conclusion of the hostilities between the British and the Afrikaners, the Daily Mail published the terms of the peace treaty as a world exclusive, even before the announcement was made by the British government. From that point onward, the Daily Mail's reputation for exclusive and reliable news, and its championing the cause of the ordinary citizen, was unquestioned throughout the United Kingdom.
The Early 20th Century and World War I
From the first day of publication, Harmsworth's Daily Mail was at the forefront of advocating technological advances in the British newspaper industry. Taking advantage of the advances in worldwide communications, the Mail established direct telegraphic contact between its London and New York offices within the first year of operation. From 1905 onward, the paper was printed in Paris so that the Daily Mail could be on Continental breakfast tables ten hours earlier than other British papers which had to be transported across the English Channel. In addition, the offices of the Daily Mail were the first in Britain to install equipment that enabled its staff to develop pictures.
Even more important, the Daily Mail was a strong advocate of technological advances in society at large. The Daily Mail took up such unpopular causes as the utility of the motor car, the installation of telephones in police stations, and the supply of fire brigades with modern emergency and rescue equipment. One of the most significant and far-reaching causes undertaken by the Daily Mail was its support of the infant technology of aviation. To encourage technological advances in flight, the Daily Mail was one of the first newspapers to offer a £10,000 prize to a person who could fly from London to Manchester in one day. Ridiculed by rival newspapers and scorned by high society, most of the landmarks and records set in early British aviation history were a direct response to challenges of the Daily Mail. In 1909, the first Englishman to fly across the English Channel claimed a Daily Mail prize as a reward. In 1910, the Daily Mail sponsored the first airship crossing of the English Channel in order to emphasize the importance of air power in any future conflict with a Continental power such as Germany.
The Growth of Influence--From World War I to the 1950s
During the years immediately before World War I, Harmsworth began to use the Daily Mail in order to warn the British public about the growing militarization of Germany and the threat she posed to peace in Europe. Campaigning vigorously to change the Seas Laws, which would seriously hamper the effectiveness of British seapower during wartime, Harmsworth and the Daily Mail were not only dismissed but roundly portrayed as engaging in "warmongering." When Harmsworth's predictions came true in August 1914, however, the Daily Mail decided to devote itself to making the public aware of the common soldier's trials and tribulations on the front lines.
By 1915, the Daily Mail was reporting that British soldiers were being butchered by the thousands on the front lines in France, and that one of the reasons for the appalling attrition rate was that the soldiers were supplied with inferior weapons and inadequate ammunition. The "Shell Crisis," as it came to be called, gave rise to an intense confrontation between the Asquith government and the British national press. Harmsworth was hanged in effigy in front of the Daily Mail offices, and copies of the paper were burned by a crowd at the London Stock Exchange. Not the least, circulation declined a million copies in one day. Yet Harmsworth held his ground, and, by the time all of the facts were made public, the Asquith government was forced to resign. David Lloyd George formed a national coalition government and successfully prosecuted the war until its conclusion. Harmsworth and the Daily Mail had extended their influence to the halls of Parliament.
When Harmsworth died in 1922, at the height of his prestige, influence, and fame, he was already dubbed Lord Northcliffe by the King of England. As tributes poured in from around the world, Harmsworth was remembered for his innovative approach to publishing, including the establishment of a paper-making facility in Newfoundland and the retraining of London's hansom cab drivers so they could adapt to driving motor vehicles. Upon Harmsworth's death, his brother Harold, known as Lord Rothermere, took effective control of all the operations of the Daily Mail.
Lord Rothermere continued in the tradition of his brother during the 1930s in trying to warn the British public about the danger of Adolf Hitler's rise to power. As the Daily Mail began to champion Winston Churchill as the one to lead Britain's government in the possible event of a Second World War, the newspaper began to increase its circulation dramatically. When war was declared in September 1939, the Daily Mail strongly supported British military aviation and the creation of the Bristol Blenheim, then the most powerful bomber ever made. The bomber played a significant role in the Battle of Britain and the fight against Germany's Luftwaffe and was the first bomber to sink both German and Japanese submarines.
When World War II ended in 1945, the Daily Mail's circulation continued to rise. Having garnered a sterling reputation for reporting reliable and trustworthy information during both world wars, the Daily Mail renewed its commitment to portraying momentous events with a journalistic flair. One of the newspaper's great foreign correspondents, Noel Barber, became renowned for his elegant anecdotal reports on such topics as the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, where he held a women who died in his arms facing Russian tanks; his visit to the South Pole, where he was the first Englishman to make the trip since Captain Scott; and his coverage of Sir Edmund Hillary's trek up the Himalayas. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Daily Mail set a standard and defined a style of reporting that legions of young reporters around the world tried to emulate.
Expansion and Consolidation
Over the years, the Daily Mail and its subsidiary, Associated Newspapers, had grown dramatically. The purchase and sale of numerous London and regional publications marked the growth of the company from its inception in 1896. In order to centralize operations and standardize publishing procedures, the company decided to relaunch itself as a compact newspaper in 1971. Under the editorship of Sir David English, who later became the chairman of the company's Associated Newspapers subsidiary, the revised Daily Mail garnered more awards than any other newspaper.
One of these awards came in 1983, when the Daily Mail received one of the special British Press Awards for a "relentless campaign against the malignant practices of the Unification Church." The Daily Mail assumed the responsibility of exposing the brainwashing techniques of the Moonies under the headline: "The Church Breaks Up Families." As a result of its reporting, the Moonies brought a libel suit against the Daily Mail, ultimately leading to the longest libel action in British legal history. In the end, the Daily Mail was vindicated and, as a consequence of the evidence made public at the trial, the Moonies' activities were reviewed by the British government and severely curtailed.
In 1988, the company left its headquarters at Carmelite House on Fleet Street, the traditional site of British publishing companies for hundreds of years, and relocated to new quarters at Northcliffe House in Kensington, West London. As the newspaper offices moved to Kensington, the printing works moved eight miles away to a 12-acre parcel of land at Rotherhithe in London's Docklands. This state-of-the-art printing and distribution facility completed the company's modernization program. The distance that separates the editorial, advertising, printing, and distribution offices are linked together by a highly sophisticated electronic communications systems known as one of the most advanced and also one of the best in the world.
The 1990s and Beyond
Under the leadership of the present Viscount Rothermere, the great-nephew of the founder, the company has expanded its activities into educational publishing, financial publishing, radio and television. In fact, the age of electronic media has completely changed the face of the British publishing industry. Since its formation in 1969, the company's Euromoney Publications has become one of the leaders in providing electronic business information through its development of various databases, and its website on the Internet. Harmsworth Publishing, the company's information publisher, has created CollegeView, an innovative software program in which colleges market themselves to students at over 4,000 high schools in the United States. In association with this program, two new CD-Rom titles were released, one providing information on careers and the other dealing with scholarships. Perhaps most important is the company's rapid expansion into the television and radio industries. The company owns Channel One, a cable television channel specializing in City news and features, the Arts Channel, a music and arts programming channel, and British Pathe, Britain's leading news film archives from 1896 to 1970. The company's radio holdings include a controlling interest in the Broadcast Media Group, an Australian radio firm that operates 12 regional radio stations in southern Australia, a controlling interest in Klassiska Hits, a radio station in Stockholm, Sweden, and Classic FM, the national classical music station of Britain.
The average daily circulation of the Daily Mail surpassed two million in its centenary year, while the regional publications throughout Britain, under the auspices of Associated Newspapers, continued to grow dramatically. In spite of its success in traditional print journalism, the Daily Mail is committed to expanding its activities in the electronic media field, where Viscount Rothermere believes the future of the industry lies.
Principal Subsidiaries:Daily Mail and General Investments plc; Daily Mail and General Holdings Ltd.; Daily Mail and General Funding (UK) Ltd.; Associated Newspapers Holdings Ltd.; Associated Newspapers Ltd.; Northcliffe Newspapers Group Ltd.; Euromoney Publications plc (73%); Bouverie Investments Ltd.; Continental Daily Mail S.A.; Carmelite House Ltd.; Harmsworth Media Ltd.; Harmsworth Publishing Ltd.; John M. Newton & Sons Ltd.; Kisalfold Deposit Ltd. Partnership; Pressprint Kft.; Associated Newspapers North America Inc.; Daily Mail & General Finance b.v.
- Carlisle, Cristina, "The Media Business: What They're Buying in Nine Countries," New York Times, May 27, 1996, p. 32(L).
- "Daily Mail & General Trust," Wall Street Journal, March 14, 1996, p. C22(E).
- "Daily Mail Gets Stake in British TV Operation," New York Times, April 23, 1996, p. D6(L).
- Edmondson, Gail, "Waltz of the Media Giants," Business Week, September 12, 1994, p. 52.
- "The Expanding Entertainment Universe," Business Week, August 14, 1995, p. 114.
- Farrell, Christopher, "Media Control Is Narrowing: Should We Worry?" Business Week, August 14, 1995, p. 37.
- "Multimedia's No-Man's Land," The Economist, July 22, 1995, p. 57.
- "Pre-Tax Profit Increases 7% as Sales, Ad Revenues Rise," Wall Street Journal, June 14, 1996, p. A7D(E).
- Pruzan, Todd, "Global Media: Distribution Slows, but Rates Climb," Advertising Age, January 16, 1995, p. 119.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 19. St. James Press, 1998.