Founded in 1919 by Joseph Medill Patterson and part of the Tribune Company, the New York Daily News was the first successful American tabloid newspaper. It gained immediate popularity for its sensational pictorial coverage of crime, scandal, and violence, as well as titillating stories about love, beauty, and celebrity. Its size made it easier for commuters to handle on the subway, and its format attracted readers who sought out the latest news and entertainment in a quick, easy-to-read package.

Throughout the mid-20th century, the Daily News dominated its rivals in terms of circulation. The paper’s brassy, pictorial style was especially popular during the Second World War, and in 1947 its distribution hit a record high of more than one million copies daily. The newspaper also benefited from its use of the Associated Press wirephoto service, a large staff of photographers, and columnists including Ed Sullivan, who later hosted the iconic television show The Ed Sullivan Show.

In the 1980s, the Daily News suffered from declining revenue and profit levels. Its owner, the Tribune Company, was unable to keep pace with union demands for pay, job numbers, and overtime. The Daily News was on the verge of bankruptcy by the early 1990s, when it was bought by businessman Mortimer Zuckerman.

Zuckerman strove to reposition the Daily News as a serious tabloid, and to bring it into the digital age. He enacted major reforms and made big investments, such as $60 million in color presses, which enabled the Daily News to match the visual quality of USA Today, the nation’s largest daily newspaper at the time. By 1993, the Daily News was once again profitable.

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