History of British Newspapers

Britain’s press can trace its history back more than 300 years, to the time of William of Orange. Berrow’s Worcester Journal, which started life as the Worcester Postman in 1690 and was published regularly from 1709, is believed to be the oldest surviving English newspaper.

William Caxton had introduced the first English printing press in 1476 and, by the early 16th century, the first ‘news papers’ were seen in Britain. They were, however, slow to evolve, with the largely illiterate population relying on town criers for news.

Between 1640 and the Restoration, around 30,000 ‘news letters’ and ‘news papers’ were printed, many of which can be seen today in the British Museum.

The first regular English daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, was launched with the reign of Queen Anne in 1702.


William Caxton sets up the first English printing press in Westminster.


First known English newsletter: Requests of the Devonshyre and Cornyshe Rebelles.


First titled newspaper, Corante, published in London.


Cromwell suppressed all newsbooks on the eve of Charles I’s execution.


Worcester Postman launched. (In 1709 it starts regular publication as Berrow’s Worcester Journal, considered to be the oldest surviving English newspaper).


Launch of the first regular daily newspaper: The Daily Courant.


First Copyright Act; Berrow’s Worcester Journal, considered the oldest surviving English newspaper, started regular publication.


First Stamp Act; advertisement, paper and stamp duties condemned as taxes on knowledge. Stamford Mercury believed to have been launched.


The Kentish Post and Canterbury Newsletter launched. It took on its current name, Kentish Gazette, in 1768.


Leeds Mercury started (later merged into Yorkshire Post).


Belfast News Letter founded (world’s oldest surviving daily newspaper).


Aberdeen Journal began (Scotland’s oldest newspaper – now the Press & Journal).


Hampshire Chronicle launched, Hampshire’s oldest paper.


Daily Universal Register (est. 1785) became The Times.


The Observer launched.


Libel Act; truth allowed as defence for first time in Britain.


The Newspaper Society founded.


The Southport Visiter first published.


The first issue of the Brechin Advertiser was published on Tuesday 3 October 1848.


Ormskirk Advertiser and Birkenhead News first published.


Stamp duty abolished. Daily Telegraph started as first penny national.Manchester Guardian, The Scotsman and Liverpool Post became daily. Shields Gazette is the first of 17 regional evenings founded this year.


Press Association set up as a national news agency.


First Official Secrets Act.


Harmsworth (then Northcliffe) bought The Observer.


Newspaper Proprietors Association founded for national dailies.


National Union of Journalists founded as a wage-earners union.


Rothermere launched Sunday Pictorial (later Sunday Mirror).


Death of Northcliffe. Control of Associated Newspapers passed to Rothermere.


Northcliffe Newspapers set up as a subsidiary of Associated Newspapers. Provincial Newspapers set up as a subsidiary of United Newspapers.


Audit Bureau of Circulations formed.


Britain’s first colour advertisement appears (in Glasgow’s Daily Record).


Iliffe took over BPM Holdings (including Birmingham Post).


Guild of British Newspaper Editors formed (now the Society of Editors).


General Council of the Press established.


Month-long national press strike. Daily Record acquired by Mirror Group.


Manchester Guardian becomes The Guardian. Six-week regional press printing strike.


Photocomposition and web-offset printing progressively introduced.


The Sun launched, replacing Daily Herald. Death of Beaverbrook. General Council of the Press reformed as the Press Council.


Murdoch’s News International acquired The Sun and News of the World.


Nottingham Evening Post is Britain’s first newspaper to start direct input by journalists.


The Times and The Sunday Times ceased publication for 11 months.


Association of Free Newspaper founded (folded 1991). Regional Newspaper Advertising Bureau formed.


News International acquired The Times and the Sunday Times.


Industrial dispute at Eddie Shah’s Messenger group plant at Warrington.


Mirror Group sold by Reed to Maxwell (Pergamon). First free daily newspaper, the (Birmingham) Daily News, launched by husband & wife team Chris & Pat Bullivant.


News International moved titles to a new plant at Wapping. Eddie Shah launchedToday, first colour national daily launched. The Independent launched.


News International took over Today.


RNAB folded. Newspaper Society launched PressAd as its commercial arm. Thomson launched Scotland on Sunday and Sunday Life.


Last Fleet Streetpaper produced by Sunday Express.


First Calcutt report on Privacy and Related Matters. Launch of The European (by Maxwell) and Independent on Sunday.


Press Complaints Commission replaced the Press Council. AFN folded. Death of Robert Maxwell (November). Management buy-out of Birmingham Post and sister titles. Midland Independent Newspapers established.


Management buy-out by Caledonian Newspapers of Lonrho’s Glasgow titles, The Herald and Evening Times.


Guardian Media Group bought The Observer. UK News set up by Northcliffe and Westminster Press as rival news agency to the Press Association. Second Calcutt report into self-regulation of the press.


Northcliffe Newspapers bought Nottingham Evening Post for £93m. News International price-cutting sparked off new national cover-price war.


Lord Wakeham succeeded Lord McGregor as chairman of the PCC. Privacy white paper rejected statutory press controls. Most of Thomson’s regional titles sold to Trinity. Newsquest formed out of a Reed MBO. Murdoch closes Today(November).


A year of buyouts, mergers and restructuring in the regional press. Regionals win the battle over cross-media ownership (Broadcasting Act). Newspaper Society launches NS Marketing, replacing PressAd.


Midland Independent Newspapers is bought by Mirror Group for £297 million. Human Rights and Data Protection bills are introduced.


Fourth largest regional press publisher, United Provincial Newspapers, is sold in two deals: UPN Yorkshire and Lancashire newspapers sold to Regional Independent Media for £360m and United Southern Publications sold to Southnews for £47.5m. Southern Newspapers changes its name to Newscom, following acquisitions in Wales and the West (including UPN Wales in 1996). Death of Lord Rothermere. Chairmanship of Associated Newspapers passes to his son Jonathan Harmsworth. Death of David English, editor-in-chief of Daily Mailand chairman of the editors’ code committee.


Trinity merges with Mirror Group Newspapers in a deal worth £1.3 billion. Newsquest is bought by US publisher Gannett for £904 million. Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers is bought by Johnston Press for £266m. Major regional press groups launch electronic media alliances (eg, This is Britain, Fish4 sites.) Freedom of Information bill introduced. Associated launches London’s free commuter daily, Metro.


Newscom is sold to Newsquest Media Group for £444m, Adscene titles are sold to Southnews (£52m)and Northcliffe Newspapers, Belfast Telegraph Newspapers are sold by Trinity Mirror to Independent News & Media for £300m, Bristol United Press is sold to Northcliffe Newspapers Group, and Southnews is sold to Trinity Mirror for £285m. Daily Express and Daily Star are sold by Lord Hollick’s United News & Media to Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell. Launch of Scottish business daily Business a.m. and more Metro daily frees. Newspaper Society launches internet artwork delivery system AdFast. Communications white paper published.


RIM buys six Galloway and Stornaway Gazette titles, Newsquest buys Dimbleby Newspaper Group and Johnston Press buys four titles from Morton Media Group. UK Publishing Media formed. Sunday Business changes name to The Businessand publishes on Sunday and Monday.


Johnston Press acquires Regional Independent Media’s 53 regional newspaper titles in a £560 million deal. Northcliffe Newspapers Group Ltd acquires Hill Bros (Leek) Ltd. Queen attends Newspaper Society annual lunch. New PCC chairman, Christopher Meyer, announced. Draft Communications Bill published. The Sunand Mirror engage in a price war.


Conrad Black resigns as chief executive of Hollinger International, owner of Telegraph group. Claverly Company, owner of Midland News Association, buys Guiton Group, publisher of regional titles in the Channel Islands. Archant buys 12 London weekly titles from Independent News & Media (December) and the remaining 15 the following month (January 04). Independent begins the shift to smaller format national newspapers when it launched its compact edition. Sir Christopher Meyer becomes chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. DCMS select committee chaired by Gerald Kaufman into privacy and the press. Government rejects calls for a privacy law.


Phillis Report on Government Communications published (January). Barclay Brothers buy Telegraph group and poach Murdoch Maclennan from Associated to run it. Kevin Beatty moves from Northcliffe Newspapers to run Associated Newspapers. Trinity Mirror sells Century Newspapers and Derry Journal in Northern Ireland to 3i. Tindle Newspapers sells Sunday Independent in Plymouth to Newsquest. The Times goes compact (November).


Johnston Press buys Score Press from EMAP for £155m. Launch of free Liteeditions for London Evening Standard and Manchester Evening News. The Timesputs up cover price to 60p, marking the end of the nationals’ price war. The Guardian moves to Berliner format after £80m investment in new presses. DMGT puts Northcliffe Newspapers up for sale; bids expected to open at £1.2 billion. Johnston Press buys Scotsman Publications from Barclay Brothers for £160m.


DMGT sale of Northcliffe group aborted but DC Thomson acquires Aberdeen Press & Journal. Trinity Mirror strategic review: Midlands and South East titles put up for sale. Growth of regional press digital platforms. Manchester Evening Newscity edition goes free. Government threat to limit Freedom of Information requests. Associated and News International both launch free evening papers in London during the autumn.


Archant Scotland acquired by Johnston Press. Northcliffe Media buys three regional newspaper businesses from Trinity Mirror; Kent Regional Newspapers, East Surrey and Sussex Newspapers and Blackmore Vale Publishing. Dunfermline Press Group acquires Berkshire Regional Newspapers from Trinity Mirror. Tindle Newspapers buys 27 local weekly newspapers from Trinity Mirror which retains its Midlands titles.

The government abandons plans to tighten Freedom of Information laws and limit media access to coroners’ courts. Former Hollinger International chief executive Conrad Black is sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for fraud. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation buys Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal, appointing News International boss Les Hinton as chief executive.


The global economic downturn hit advertising revenues and shares of media companies fell sharply during the year. John Fry was announced as Tim Bowdler’s successor at Johnston Press in September. The Independentannounced a plan to move to DMGT’s Kensington building to cut costs in November. The BBC Trust rejected plans for local video that would have a negative impact on regional titles in the same month following a sustained campaign by the NS.


Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev acquires the London Evening Standardfrom Daily Mail & General Trust and the title is subsequently relaunched as a free newspaper. Baroness Peta Buscombe is appointed chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. 


Britain officially emerges from the longest and deepest recession since the war. Lebedev acquires the Independent and Independent on Sunday from Independent News & Media for a nominal fee of £1. Trinity Mirror acquires GMG Regional Media, publisher of 32 titles, from Guardian Media Group for £44.8 million.

News International erects paywalls around its online content for The Times and The Sunday Times. Eleven regional print titles are launched by seven publishers in the first six months of the year. Newly-elected coalition government announces it will look at the case for relaxing cross-media ownership rules and stop unfair competition from council newspapers. The Independent launches i, a digest newspaper to complement their main title, and the first daily paper to be launched in the UK in almost 25 years.


In April, following campaigning by the NS and the industry, a revised Local Authority Publicity Code came into effect to crack down on council newspapers. In July, The News of The World was closed after 168 years of publication. The Prime Minister announced an inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson into the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal. In October, Lord Hunt of Wirral was appointed chairman of the Press Complaints Commission.

Five regional daily titles switched to weekly during the year. Local cross media ownership rules were abolished. Kent Messenger Group’s proposed acquisition of seven Northcliffeweekly titles was referred to the Competition Commission by the OFT forcing the deal to be abandoned. Northcliffe Media announced the subsequent closure of Medway News and the East Kent Gazette.


The London 2012 Olympics and Diamond Jubilee saw national and local press titles produce a host of supplements, special editions and other initiatives in digital and print to help their readers celebrate the events.

In November, the press industry came together to progress plans for a new, tougher, independent system of self regulation following publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s report into the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal. MailOnline became the world’s biggest newspaper website with 45.348 million unique users.

The creation of a new local media business Local World was announced. Led by former chief executive of publishers Mecom and Mirror Group David Montgomery, Local World is created from the newspapers and websites of Northcliffe Media and Iliffe News & Media.


Significant progress was made by the newspaper and magazine industry in setting up the Independent Press Standards Organisation – the new regulator for the press called for by Lord Justice Leveson. More than 90 per cent of the national press, the vast majority of the regional press, along with major magazine publishers, signed contracts to establish IPSO. Led by Sir Hayden Phillips, the independent appointments procedures were well underway, with the regulator due to launch on 1 May 2014.

Politicians, publishers and press freedom organisations from across the globe railed against the Government’s Royal Charter for press regulation which Culture Secretary Maria Miller admitted could become redundant if IPSO was successful. The Guardian prompted heated debate over the issue of mass surveillance after publishing a series of stories based on information leaked by the US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The local press was widely praised for its coverage of floods which blighted communities with Prime Minister David Cameron singling out the Eastern Daily Press in particular. Local papers created thousands of jobs distributing Regional Growth Fund cash to small businesses.


A new voice for the £6 billion national, regional and local UK news media sector was launched in the form of the News Media Association, formed by the merger of the Newspaper Society and the Newspaper Publishers’ Association. 

In a climate of grave threats to press freedom, the importance of newspaper journalism was highlighted through stories such as The Times’ exposure of the Rotherham abuse scandal and The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness campaign.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation, the new press regulator, launched in September with the vast majority of local and national publishers signed up to it.


In October 2015, Trinity Mirror announced the acquisition of Local World for £220 million, demonstrating the publisher’s firm belief in the future of local news media.

Newspapers grew their UK monthly print and online reach to more than 47 million people, more than Google’s 45 million, with newsbrands driving nearly a billion social media interactions over the course of the year.

The importance of news media in holding power to account was emphasised through agenda  agenda-setting campaigns such as The Sunday Times’ exposure of corruption within football world governing body Fifa and Sunday Life’s hard hitting campaign to expose and abolish the cruel practice of illegal puppy farming. 


In February, Johnston Press acquired the i for £24 million.

The BBC and the News Media Association announced the ground-breaking Local News Partnership to boost local journalism in the UK. The scheme will see the BBC invest £8 million annually in a series of initiatives including 150 Local Democracy Reporters employed by local papers, a shared data journalism unit, and a facility allowing local news providers access to local BBC material. 

The Government pulled back from a draconian clampdown on Freedom of Information laws after a sustained campaign by the news media industry.


The industry continued its campaign against state-sponsored regulation of the press and the punitive Section 40 costs sanctions and Leveson 2.

In March, the NMA called upon the relevant authorities to launch an investigation into the activities of Facebook and Google, and their impact upon the news media industry, and the digital supply chain.

There were a series of acquisitions in the local press sector with Newsquest acquiring the Isle of Wight County Press Ltd and NWN Media in July and September respectively, while Iliffe Media bought the KM Media Group in May.


Following an industry wide Free the Press campaign coordinated by the NMA, the Government announced that it would formally close the Leveson Inquiry and would not commence Section 40, seeking its repeal at the earliest opportunity.

National publishers launched The Ozone Project, a jointly owned audience platform giving advertisers access to joint inventory and data.

Both DMGT and Guardian Media Group announced that they had earned more money from digital operations than from printed newspapers.


The industry welcomed the publication of the Cairncross review which made a series of detailed recommendations on how to support local news media.  One of the key recommendations, also made by the Furman review, was for a CMA market study into the digital advertising market, which commenced later in the year. 

The NMA launched its first Journalism Matters campaign to highlight the power of news media journalism and its importance for democratic society.

The European Parliament voted to adopt the EU Copyright Directive including a Publisher’s Right enabling publishers to better protect their content online.

The launch of JICREG True Local, the local sector’s new cross platform audience currency, found that local news brands reach 40.6 million adults a month in print and digital.

The Daily Mail and General Trust acquired the i in 2019 for £49.6 million.

The coronavirus pandemic cast a spotlight on the vital importance of trusted news and information produced by news media publishers, with audiences for local and national journalism rising sharply, amidst repeated national lockdowns and restrictions.

Facing unprecedented declines in revenue caused by the economic slowdown, the industry responded with powerful campaigns to support key workers, boost business, encourage vaccine take-up, and get vital PPE to those who need it.

The NMA supported this work in various ways including a major government advertising campaign worth over £50m to local, regional and national news media titles in 2020, securing key worker status for journalists, persuading Government to bring forward zero VAT rating for e-publications, as well as protecting the industry’s vital routes to market.

Other significant developments included the Government committing to set up a new Digital Markets Unit to regulate the tech giants, following years of NMA and industry lobbying, and Ministers committing to exempt news media content from the new online harms regime.


The pandemic continued to highlight the powerful role news brands hold in helping the public navigate the ongoing crisis. An Ofcom report found newspapers are one of the top media sources on Covid-19, reaffirming the importance of trusted, quality journalism produced by news media publishers.

New audience data from JICREG Life is Local, the gold standard for local media audience measurement, showed that audiences for local news media surged by 17.9 per cent as more people than ever before sought out trusted, local journalism, with 42 million people now accessing local media in print and digital each month.

Regional publishers such as Reach plc and Newsquest announced major new investments in local journalism with recruitment drives across the country.

The NMA has continued to press for a fairer online ecosystem for publishers including making the case for the new regulator, the Digital Markets Unit, urgently to be given the statutory tools it needs to level the playing field between the tech platforms and news publishers.

The NMA has also continued to call for a robust and workable exemption for journalistic content to be written onto the face of the Online Safety Bill, ensuring freedom of speech and the public’s right to know is protected by the new regime.

The government launched its first ever national action plan to protect journalists from abuse and harassment, supporting the wider work on upholding freedom of speech and protecting journalistic content from censorship.

2022The war in Ukraine saw the news media industry spare no effort in cover the unfolding conflict with first hand reporting from journalists on the ground to charity appeals and powerful front pages.
In February, the DCMS Committee launched an inquiry into the sustainability of local journalism to examine the challenges that local news publishers face and how they can be supported to maintain their democratic role.
In April, former Newspaper Society president Sir Ray Tindle, the founder of local news publisher Tindle Newspapers, died at the age of 95.
The industry made progress with the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, with an unprecedented coalition across the UK media sector coming together to call on government to tackle the damaging impact of tech platforms on news publishers by legislating for the Digital Markets Unit. In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor committed to putting forward the legislation in the current parliamentary session. An academic paper found that news content created by British publishers generated approximately £1 billion in UK revenues for Google and Facebook every year – leading to further calls for publishers to receive fair remuneration for their news content.
The NMA worked hard to secure a robust and workable exemption for journalistic content in the Online Safety Bill to safeguard freedom of expression, and also helped to strengthen the principle of open justice, opening the Family Courts up to media reporting. The Reporters Charter launched in May which aimed to reinforce the rights of journalists to report on court proceedings.
Following the death of HM The Queen, news brands pulled out all the stops to cover the funeral and ceremonial events to mark the historic occasion.
There were a series of acquisitions in the industry, with Newsquest acquiring Archant and Tindle Newspapers purchasing the Voice Newspaper Series and the Woking News & Mail.
2023Amid conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, the media remains crucial as the eyes and ears of the public, helping us navigate global affairs.

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill was introduced to the House of Commons, a vital piece of legislation for the news media industry, seeking to improve competition in the digital ecosystem.

The Coronation of King Charles III marked a historic weekend for news brands who pulled out all the stops in their coverage of the event.

The local news industry launched the Public Notice Portal in May to better open democracy in local communities. In November, the Portal hit the one million page view milestone.

In June, the Daily Telegraph and Spectator were put up for sale, and later in the year, National World acquired the Midland News Association.

The Online Safety Act received Royal Assent, carrying the crucial exemption clause to protect journalistic content from censorship. The Media Bill was introduced to the Commons, including plans to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act – a repeal which would be an important step for safeguarding press freedom in the UK.

Wayne David MP presented a Private Members’ Bill to combat SLAPP cases, promoting free speech and ensuring protections for public interest journalism from unmeritorious legal cases.

2023 also saw concerns rise surrounding fears of AI-generated mis and disinformation online and beyond. Trusted, independent journalism will be crucial going forward in combating fake news. Worries over copyright infringement also increased, as generative AI grows, so does the threat that journalistic content may be used to fuel AI models without proper consent and remuneration.

The industry worked closely on the launch of a pilot scheme allowing media to report on the family courts, with initial launches going live in select areas across the UK.