Victorian newspaper proprietor,
publisher and entrepreneur
United Newspapers Ltd
It is generally assumed that this company was formed in 1918 after Lloyd George had taken over Lloyd’s two newspapers. This is not in fact the case, although it may have renamed itself United Newspapers (1918) Ltd.
The private company had been created some time between 1890 and 1911, i.e. during the currency of Edward Lloyd’s will trust. The estate account drawn up in 1911 lists two lots of family holdings – Edward Lloyd Ltd and United Newspapers Ltd. Their value was £258,600 and £255,000 (+/- £27m now) respectively.
Taking the family trust’s shares into account, United’s value in 1911 would have been about twice that amount, i.e. £510,000 (£54m now) or £1m-odd in 1918, allowing for inflation.
Of the £1.6m (£81m) paid by Lloyd George, three quarters was in cash and one quarter in debentures. What happened to the debentures is unknown. Lloyd George may have redeemed them before selling his holding in 1926.
The story of that and other accidents that befell the Chronicle later is told in United Newspapers, as far as we have been able to trace it.
Lloyd's two newspapers were Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper and the Daily Chronicle. Their success was no accident. Throughout his life, he kept a tight editorial grip on Lloyd’s Weekly and took an active part in the management of the Chronicle, as well as constantly improving the efficiency of their production.
He launched Lloyd's Weekly in 1842 during the first expansion of the press following the reduction of the stamp duty on news from 4d to 1d six years earlier.
For a decade, the paper’s survival was insecure, although he never contemplated closing it. Losses were met from the sales of fiction and practical journals.
Its fortunes changed after Douglas Jerrold was appointed editor in 1852. Lloyd's sales target of 100,000 was reached in 1855 and, once the price had been reduced to 1d in 1861, 170,000-odd jumped to 400,000 in short order. In 1896, it was the first UK newspaper to pass the million mark and the only one to do so in the 19th century.
From the mid-1850s, Lloyd concentrated on Lloyd’s Weekly and production. He became the only proprietor to control the entire supply chain within a single business, from growing the crop used to make the paper through to distribution of the printed copies – what is now called "vertical integration".
Throughout his career, Lloyd was ahead of his time in using the power of advertising both to publicise his own output and later as a source of revenue that would enable him to keep the cover price of the papers down.
For publicity, he introduced the pictorial poster. The idea that he personally travelled the country looking for sites to put up hoardings must be a myth – his workload in London was too punishing to allow that. However, he had 25 teams of bill-stickers who put up posters at a cost of £300 a week. He also made inventive use of the coinage and, after engraving coppers became illegal, stuck paper discs to them.
The duty on advertising in the newspapers was lifted in 1853 but the habit took a while to catch on. Between then and 1875, advertising in Lloyd’s Weekly increased sixfold and included small personal ads. The Chronicle carried pages of these from the outset since it was one of the strengths of the local paper from which Lloyd developed the title.
Originally the Clerkenwell News and Domestic Intelligencer, a 4-page paper largely made up of advertising, it had been one of many that sprang up with the abolition of the duty on news in 1855. It had already changed its name many times, notably as the London Daily Chronicle and Clerkenwell News until 1872 when it became the plain Daily Chronicle. When Lloyd bought it in 1876 it consisted of half advertising, half editorial.
The nationwide Daily Chronicle was launched on 28 May 1877. Clearly a national daily was essential for the credibility of an aspiring press baron. This was a more serious contender for political influence than Lloyd's Weekly. It was nevertheless middle-market and a broad public embraced it from the beginning.
Commercial success came immediately. It exercised some influence in public life but this developed more markedly in the 1890s and beyond. Despite nominal affiliation to the “independent Liberals”, the Chronicle proved to be more independent than Liberal. It had several confrontations with Liberal governments, culminating in a fatal clash with Lloyd George in 1918. He took over the whole of Lloyd’s newspaper business by paying the heirs a price they could not refuse.
That marked the end of the Lloyd empire on Fleet Street. The coup is outlined in Daily Chronicle and the aftermath in United Newspapers. At the start of the Great Depression, the Chronicle was rescued by Cadbury interests and combined with their Daily News to make the News Chronicle. For three decades, it fared reasonably well until, again in financial difficulties, it finally failed in 1960. The Daily Mail took over its assets.
An attempt by Edgar Wallace to keep Lloyd's Weekly going failed in 1931. It then disappeared into the Sunday Graphic and that disappeared into the Sunday Times in 1960.
It is not known when Lloyd conceived the ambition to join the mainstream press, but it was early in his life. His first attempts suggest that he was not serious. The first seven issues of a news weekly that appeared without any news confirmed this view, yet it was contradicted by the substantial investment of money and effort that he put into setting Lloyd’s Weekly up.
He was a champion of objective reporting, unembellished by comment or speculation. This has rather fallen by the wayside in the modern UK press, but papers in North America are still inclined to honour the tradition.
His active management kept his newspapers clear of the criminal courts. In the 19th century, there were several ill-defined crimes that plagued the free press – contempt of court, obscenity and criminal libel (where the truth of an allegation was no defence). Lloyd’s Weekly was prosecuted for contempt, but not until 1914.
Lloyd’s drive, talent and imagination in establishing a leading presence in Fleet Street was widely recognised during his lifetime (see Lloyd the Man). The recent revival of interest in his early output of fiction is welcome, but his newspapers also deserve better of history than oblivion.
Even serious authors tend to write off Lloyd’s Weekly as a cheap purveyor of crime, scandal and sensation for the masses. This perception would not survive a few minutes’ scrutiny of the British Library’s online archive (1842-1900). They would find little to titillate but a good deal to make them yawn. The Daily Chronicle tends to be treated more kindly by posterity – when it is noticed at all, that is.
Sadly, Edward Lloyd did not live to see the triumphant passing of the million mark by Lloyd's Weekly in 1896, but nor did he suffer the indignity of the Chronicle passing into political hands in 1918.
Lloyds Weekly Newspaper
This Sunday paper became an outstanding success at the popular end of the market. Marie Lloyd, the music-hall artiste, took it as her stage name because everyone had heard of it. From 16 March 1884, the masthead claimed the "largest circulation in the world". Now its very existence is all but forgotten.
The style seems forbiddingly respectable and wordy to the modern eye, but its eclectic mixture of news, comment, reviews, literary extracts, practical information, advice and advertising offered something to interest all readers.
Its success was very much Lloyd's own achievement. The "editor" only wrote the leaders. Lloyd controlled all content, with the help of a trusted sub-editor in later years. He remained wholly in charge of the business management. His last great endeavour was a major reorganisation of the paper.
The Daily Chronicle
The Daily Chronicle established Edward Lloyd as a leading presence in Fleet Street. His talents created a newspaper that the public enjoyed reading and one that was delivered with all the efficiency that modern technology could muster.
After Lloyd’s death, the paper grew in controversy and political influence under editors who were among the leading journalists of the time, such as Henry Massingham and Robert Donald. Its popularity arose from its extensive reporting of the news, however, and that did not change.
Despite claiming to be a Liberal paper, its political position was often to the left even of the “independent” arm of the Liberal Party. Its own independence proved to be its downfall in 1918 when, after defying Lloyd George, it was bought out by the Prime Minister’s political friends.
Some of Edward Lloyd’s investments brought dynamic change to the newspaper industry, notably the import of Hoe’s rotary presses in 1856 and the bulk use of esparto grass in paper-making. The more technical aspects are outlined in The rotary press and Paper-making. Photographs of the processes involved can be found here and here.
Lloyd adopted anything new that improved his processes. For example, in the 1840s his editorial office used speaking tubes – an 18th century device mainly used on board ship – to coordinate the publication of multiple periodicals. His curiosity and knowledge of production prompted many improvements that he worked out with his suppliers. Although he was a persuasive negotiator of bargains, they could rely on long-lasting business relationships if what they supplied met his needs.
He applied enormous energy, intelligence and money to advancing the productive efficiency of his operations. In innovation, he rivalled, possibly surpassed, the John Walter family at The Times. He kept his competitive edge sharp, always serving his ultimate purpose – to create good reading material that the general public could afford to buy.