In 1887 Alfred Harmsworth -- later known as Lord Northcliffe --
founded a revolutionary publishing business. Harmsworth's first publications
were ‘Answers’ and ‘Comic Cuts’, but
he then went on to own the ‘London Evening News’. However,
Harmsworth soon became bored with managing others creations so he decided
to transform Fleet Street by creating The Daily Mirror, which was launched
on the 2 November 1903.
The tabloid newspaper was created for women and was run by women. The
initial reputation of the newspaper was that it was a gossip sheet
for “gentlewomen”. Harmsworth decided the name of the
newspaper should reflect the everyday life of women, "I intend
it to be a mirror of feminine life...to be entertaining without being
frivolous and serious without being dull”. £100, 000 was
spent in publicity, which included giving free gifts such as gilt and
enamel mirrors to increase circulation. The newspaper included sections
which dealt with fashion and cookery, and, although it did invite men
to read it, the idea did not catch on. The price of the newspaper was
one penny; but it failed to capture the nation’s attention.
In 1904 The Mirror was forced to make a drastic change- the paper was
losing £3000 a week. Harmsworth decided to change the newspaper
into a pictorial newspaper under the name of ‘The Daily Illustrated’.
Hamilton Fyfe was appointed editor, who dismissed every woman working
for the paper. Harmsworth stated "Some people say that a woman
never really knows what she wants. It is certain she knew what she
didn't want. She didn't want the Daily Mirror”. The paper would
now attract a very different audience. The masthead read “A paper
for men and women” and the price was dropped to half a penny.
The paper soared to be the second largest morning newspaper and had
a circulation of 466, 000. The immense popularity of the paper was
down to researching public interests. The Mirror ran articles on the
Royal family which included pictures, sponsored national events and
created the idea of ‘exclusive’ interviews with celebrities.
Harold Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere) bought the tabloid from his brother
in 1913. In 1917 the price was raised back to one penny and circulation
continued to grow until 1930 where sales rocketed to over 1 million
a day. Rothermere owned both the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail, and
used both for his own political purposes. Both newspapers supported
Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, but rapidly withdrew
their support after middle-class readers were outraged at the violence
at a rally in Olympia.
The Mirror did not keep its newly found popularity however and by the
mid 1930’s it was struggling again. The competition from two
new rival newspapers, The Daily Herald and The Daily Express, was having
an immense impact on both The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail. Rothermere
decided to sell his shares, which created one of the most controversial
re-workings of any paper in history.
In the late 1930’s the newspaper changed its format to follow
the New York tabloids. The Mirror transformed itself from a conservative,
middle-class newspaper to a left-wing, working class paper; which raised
its circulation in the late 1930s to 1.4 million. It was known
for campaigning against the appeasement of Adolf Hitler.
For more information on this subject, I recomend this book by Chris
Horrie: ‘Tabloid Nation’ – from the birth of the
Daily Mirror to the death of the tabloid.