Overview

Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe

(1865—1922) journalist and newspaper proprietor


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(1865–1922) Britishnewspaper proprietor

Born Alfred Harmsworth in Dublin, he founded the Daily Mail (1896), the Daily Mirror (1903), and bought The Times in 1908. His brother, Viscount Rothermere (born Harold Harmsworth) joined him and proved gifted in garnering advertising revenue, which came to be the dominant revenue source of newspapers. Their Amalgamated Press (including Comic Cuts, famously labelled as ‘Amusing Without Being Vulgar’) became one of the world's largest media empires of its time, with a specific marketing slant towards the new reading public of literate working men and (especially) women. Northcliffe's papers were initially regarded with contempt by the British establishment. Lord Cecil's view on the Daily Mail was typical of the upper-class reactions of the time: ‘a newspaper for office boys written by office boys’. However, Northcliffe's genius for flattering and understanding his essentially educated working-class and lower middle-class readership, resulted in massive sales. His advice to his journalists was always ‘Explain, Simplify, Clarify’, and his shrewd assessment of the newspaper business remains perfectly valid today: ‘News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress, all the rest is advertising.’