With all these merits and recommendations it will be asked, why did not the Birmingham Daily Press succeed? Well, I do not think I can quite answer the question. I can only say that judging by what I have observed and heard literary excellence, good reporting, and able editing will not make a paper commercially successful. If a newspaper is to succeed in paying its way and making a profit, its business management must be in experienced and competent hands. A daily newspaper is apt to be a deadly drain if its expenditure exceeds its receipts—as the daily loss has to be multiplied by six every week—and this tells up large in the course of a year.
There can be no question that the Birmingham Daily Press had a fine start, and a splendid chance. But the chance was not turned to the best account, and the promising start ended in a lamentable finish. This, too, in spite of the fact that the paper became really well established. Indeed, Mr. (now Sir John) Jaffray was heard to say that for a long; time the Birmingham Daily Post, which was started some two years or more after the Birmingham Daily Press, could make no impression, so firm a footing had the latter paper obtained in the town. But Messrs. Feeney and Jaffray had put their hands to the plough; they pegged away with the Birmingham Daily Post till it did make an impression, and the proprietors being able and experienced in the matter of newspaper business management, they stood very firm when they did begin to feel their feet. They drove the town—not from pillar to post, but from Daily Press to Daily Post. They established their position, and that position they have gone on improving unto this day.
As for the unfortunate Daily Press, it fell into a very serious decline, and finally expired somewhat suddenly in November, 1858. Its successful rival remarked in a not over sympathetic paragraph that “it went out like the snuff of a candle leaving behind it something of the flavour of that domestic nuisance.” I remember poor George Dawson, who had lost a good deal of money through the failure of the Birmingham Daily Press, thought the Post’s spiteful little obituary notice the unkindest cut of all. For victors to crow over the vanquished in such language he thought was worse than ungenerous, it was mean.
I will not now pause to say anything in detail concerning the Birmingham Daily Gazette, started in 1862, the Daily Mail in 1870, the Globe in 1879, the Echo in 1883, the Times in 1885, and the Argus in 1891. I must, however, just note that the most important new journalistic venture in recent years was the production of the Birmingham Morning News, which was started in 1871. This daily morning paper was established on lines which should have led to a permanent success. There was plenty of capital at its back.
Mr. George Dawson—whose name it was thought would be a tower of strength—took an active part in its editorial work. It had an excellent staff, and, in a journalistic sense and as a newspaper production, it was a credit to itself and to the town.