Northcliffe, Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, Viscount

Northcliffe, Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, Viscount

▪ British publisher
also called  (from 1905) Baron Northcliffe of the Isle of Thanet  
born July 15, 1865, Chapelizod, near Dublin, Ireland
died August 14, 1922, London, England
 one of the most successful newspaper publishers in the history of the British press and a founder of popular modern journalism.

      After an impoverished childhood and a few attempts at making a quick fortune, young Harmsworth embarked on freelance journalism as a contributor to popular papers, rose to editorial positions, and, inspired by the success of Tit-Bits, a popular weekly of informative scraps, decided to start a similar paper of his own called Answers to Correspondents. After some difficulty in securing financial backing, he began publication, soon shortening the name to Answers. As the paper gained public favour, he was joined by his brother Harold, whose financial ability and capacity for attracting advertising, combined with Alfred's genius for sensing the public taste, made it a success. Answers was followed by many other inexpensive popular periodicals, chief among them Comic Cuts (“Amusing Without Being Vulgar”) and Forget-Me-Not, for the new reading public of women. These formed the basis for what became the Amalgamated Press (from 1959 Fleetway Press), the largest periodical-publishing empire in the world.

      In 1894 Harmsworth entered the newspaper field, purchasing the nearly bankrupt London Evening News and transforming it into a popular newspaper with brief news reports, a daily story, and a column for women. Within a year circulation had grown to 160,000 copies, and profits were substantial. Conceiving the idea of a chain of halfpenny morning papers in the provinces, he bought two papers in Glasgow, Scotland, and merged them into the Glasgow Daily Record. He then decided to experiment with a popular national daily in London. The Daily Mail, first published on May 4, 1896, was a sensational success. Announced as “the penny newspaper for one halfpenny” and “the busy man's daily journal,” it was exactly suited to the new reading public. All news stories and feature articles were kept short, and articles of interest to women, political and social gossip, and a serial story were made regular features. Although news headlines remained, at first, modest in size, far more were used than in any previous paper. With its first issue, the Mail established a world record in daily newspaper circulation, a lead it never lost while its founder lived.

      Next Harmsworth bought the Weekly Dispatch when it was nearly bankrupt and turned it (as the Sunday Dispatch) into the biggest-selling Sunday newspaper in the country. In 1903 he founded the Daily Mirror (Mirror, The), which successfully exploited a new market as a picture paper, with a circulation rivaling that of the Daily Mail. Harmsworth saved the Observer from extinction in 1905, the year in which he was made Baron Northcliffe. In 1908 he reached the pinnacle of his career by securing control of The Times (Times, The), which he transformed from a 19th-century relic into a modern newspaper.

      Northcliffe's contributions to the British effort in World War I began with his early exposure in the Daily Mail of the British army's shell shortage. His criticisms of Lord Kitchener aroused intense resentment in some quarters, but he also pressed for the creation of a separate Ministry of Munitions and for the formation (1915) of a wartime coalition government. For his service as head of the British war mission in the United States in 1917, he was created a viscount that year. He acted as the British government's director of propaganda aimed at Germany and other enemy countries in 1918. By this time Northcliffe's press empire appeared to hold such power over public opinion that he tried unsuccessfully to influence the composition of Prime Minister David Lloyd George's cabinet. Always unpredictable, Northcliffe became the victim of a megalomania that damaged his judgment and led to the breakdown that preceded his death.

      Northcliffe's success as a publisher rested on his instinctive understanding of the new reading public that had been created by compulsory education. Though Northcliffe wanted political power, the effect of his newspapers upon public affairs is generally considered to have been smaller than he believed. His influence lay rather in changing the direction of much of the press away from its traditional informative and interpretative role to that of the commercial exploiter and entertainer of mass publics.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Northcliffe (of Saint Peter), Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, Viscount — born July 15, 1865, Chapelizod, near Dublin, Ire. died Aug. 14, 1922, London, Eng. British newspaper publisher. After an impoverished childhood and a few attempts to make a quick fortune, he joined his brother, Harold Sidney Harmsworth… …   Universalium

  • Alfred Charles William Harmsworth — noun British newspaper publisher (1865 1922) • Syn: ↑Harmsworth, ↑Viscount Northcliffe • Instance Hypernyms: ↑publisher, ↑newspaper publisher …   Useful english dictionary

  • Harmsworth,Alfred Charles William — Harms·worth (härmzʹwûrth ), Alfred Charles William. Viscount Northcliffe. 1865 1922. British newspaper publisher who founded the Daily Mail (1896) and the Daily Mirror (1903). * * * …   Universalium

  • Alfred Harmsworth — Alfred Harmsworth, premier vicomte de Northcliffe Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1er vicomte Northcliffe (né le 15 juillet 1865 et mort le 14 août 1922) était un patr …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Northcliffe —   [ nɔːθklɪf], Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, Viscount (seit 1917), britischer Verleger, * Chapelizod (bei Dublin) 15. 7. 1865, ✝ London 14. 8. 1922; baute mit seinem Bruder H. S. Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere, den Pressekonzern Amalgamated… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Harmsworth — noun British newspaper publisher (1865 1922) • Syn: ↑Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, ↑Viscount Northcliffe • Instance Hypernyms: ↑publisher, ↑newspaper publisher * * * /hahrmz werrth/, n. 1. Alfred Charles William, Viscoun …   Useful english dictionary

  • William — /wil yeuhm/, n. 1. a word formerly used in communications to represent the letter W. 2. a male given name: from Germanic words meaning will and helmet. * * * (as used in expressions) Huddie William Ledbetter Aberhart William George William… …   Universalium

  • Charles — /chahrlz/, n. 1. (Prince of Edinburgh and of Wales) born 1948, heir apparent to the throne of Great Britain (son of Elizabeth II). 2. Ray (Ray Charles Robinson), born 1930, U.S. blues singer and pianist. 3. Cape, a cape in E Virginia, N of the… …   Universalium

  • viscount — /vuy kownt /, n. 1. a nobleman next below an earl or count and next above a baron. 2. Hist. a deputy of a count or earl. 3. (in England) a sheriff. [1350 1400; ME viscounte < AF; OF visconte (F vicomte), equiv. to vis VICE3 + counte COUNT2, trans …   Universalium

  • Alfred — /al fred, frid/, n. a male given name: from the Old English words meaning elf and counsel. * * * I known as Alfred the Great born 849 died 899 King of Wessex (871–99) in southwestern England. He joined his brother Ethelred I in confronting a… …   Universalium

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