Like other titles, the paper was initially published once a week, on Saturday. The outer pages could be put together some time before printing as the contents were not time critical and could be re-arranged if necessary. The front page normally ran advertisements and ‘magazine material – poetry, literary or historical anecdotes, Letters to the editor and other miscellaneous matters’ were on the back page (Ayerst p33). This allowed much of the paper’s copy to be in place for the London mail’s arrival in Manchester on Friday, the content of which would then fill the internal pages and might include items such as leading articles, parliamentary news, and foreign items. The internal pages also carried up-to-date information on trading prices and markets. The inclusion of market reports was a key fixture in the paper from the beginning and meant that the paper ‘closely identified with local business community’ (Turner p70).
Attracting advertisements was crucial for the financial viability of the paper. While adverts were taxed, they were essential in bringing in additional income above the price of the paper. The initial edition included 47 advertisements, and these were typical of examples carried in other titles. The adverts covered local matters including rentals, shipping times, auctions, and lottery information – indeed, the first line of the paper’s first edition, perhaps bizarrely, is a notice about a lost dog.
The paper’s broad appeal within Manchester, not only with liberals and reformers but also with the business community, meant that the number of adverts increased as the paper became more established. By 1823 the paper carried 100 such adverts and by 1840 the number had risen to 186 (Ayerst, p81). With the increase in advertising, the paper was able to cover its costs and Taylor, the founder, was able to pay off his initial eleven investors by 1824.
Initially, circulation of the paper was 1,000 copies per issue but this steadily rose to 2,000 by 1823 and to 3,000 by the end of 1825, eventually reaching an estimated 30,000 by 1880.