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The Daily Mail, devised by Alfred Harmsworth (later Viscount Northcliffe) and his brother Harold (later Viscount Rothermere), was first published on . It cost a halfpenny at a time when other London dailies cost one penny, and was more populist in tone and more concise in its coverage than its rivals.

The planned issue was 100,000 copies but the print run on the first day was 397,215 and additional printing facilities had to be acquired to sustain a circulation which rose to 500,000 in 1899.

(For full list see Daily Mail aviation prizes.) Before the outbreak of World War I, the paper was accused of warmongering when it reported that Germany was planning to crush the British Empire.

When war began, Northcliffe's call for conscription was seen by some as controversial, although he was vindicated when conscription was introduced in 1916.

The paper's circulation dropped from 1,386,000 to 238,000. Asquith accused the paper of being disloyal to the country.

Fifteen hundred members of the London Stock Exchange burned unsold copies and called for a boycott of the Harmsworth Press. When Kitchener died, the Mail reported it as a great stroke of luck for the British Empire As Lord Northcliffe aged, his grip on the paper slackened and there were periods when he was not involved.

The main concern of Viscount Rothermere, the current chairman and main shareholder, is that the circulation be maintained.

He testified before a House of Lords select committee that "we need to allow editors the freedom to edit", and therefore the newspaper's editor was free to decide editorial policy, including its political allegiance.

Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere, a great-grandson of one of the co-founders, is the current chairman and controlling shareholder of the Daily Mail and General Trust, while day-to-day editorial decisions for the newspaper are usually made by a team around the editor, Paul Dacre.

On 25 October 1924, the Daily Mail published the forged Zinoviev letter, which indicated that British Communists were planning violent revolution.

This was thought by some a significant factor in the defeat of Ramsay Mac Donald's Labour Party in the 1924 general election, held four days later.

The publisher of the Mail, the Daily Mail and General Trust, is currently a FTSE 250 company.

The paper has a circulation of around two million, which is the fourth largest circulation of any English-language daily newspaper in the world.

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A survey in 2014 found the average age of its reader was 58, and it had the lowest demographic for 15- to 44-year-olds among the major British dailies.

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