Harmsworth’s Daily Timesaver: The world’s first tabloid as an experiment in placing speed at the heart of the reading experience

Robert Campbell

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This proposal represents a significant new post-doctoral development in my study of an under-reported episode in journalism history in which Alfred Harmsworth, founder of the Daily Mail, acting as guest editor, turned Joseph W Pulitzer’s New York World into a prototype tabloid to mark the first day of the 20th century (January 1 1901).

The newspaper, nicknamed the Daily Timesaver, was arguably the
world’s first tabloid. It was returned to its regular format the
next day – but not without prompting debate at the time which, until this research, has faded into the margins of newspaper history. I presented interim findings in New York (Campbell, 2011) but on completion of my PhD (Campbell, 2014) am now able to shed fresh new light on the subject. My thesis is that Harmsworth’s experiment was with the temporal nature of the reading experience. He proposed a problem – information overload – and offered a solution in the form of bite-sized news contained within a tabloid format. It was an unusually pervasive attempt to address the transaction at the heart of the reading experience: not the surrender of small change for the cover price, but of the more precious reader resource of time.

Harmsworth’s vision (short-lived, at least at the time) was to erode the autonomy of the reading experience, while persuading readers that it was what they had wished for. As such, my work challenges a prevailing normative approach to tabloids that focuses on news versus entertainment, and offers instead insights drawing on concepts of periodicity, speed, and material versus represented relationships. My proposal addresses the themes of the conference in that it is a case study of an individual publication of note and a significant editor/owner. The research is based on archival evidence from the Butler Library at Columbia University in New York, plus US press reports of what became a news event in itself, and a close reading of the Timesaver.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015
EventCommunities of communication II: Newspapers and Periodicals in Britain and Ireland from 1800 to 1900 - Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Sept 201511 Sept 2015


ConferenceCommunities of communication II
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • press history
  • Newspapers
  • Tabloid
  • Daily Timesaver
  • Alfred Harmsworth


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