Israel Hayom was launched on 30 July 2007 by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. At that time, the newspaper competed directly with Israeli, another free daily previously co-run by Adelson. The same year, Maariv editor Dan Margalit left the newspaper to write for Israel Hayom. A weekend edition was launched in October 2009. In 2014, it was believed that Adelson invested in total at least $50 million in Israel Hayom.
Adelson's support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has led the latter's political opponents in the Knesset to sponsor a bill that would prevent the free distribution of newspapers in Israel. Ostensibly framed as a bill to prevent unfair competition and save the Israeli print newspaper industry, critics of the bill said it hurts free enterprise and is a thinly veiled attempt to target Adleson and his political causes, as Israel Hayom is Israel's only free-of-charge national newspaper. The bill passed the first reading in the Knesset, but not subsequent ones.
2008 study by Moran Rada published in The Seventh Eye showed that while competing newspapers' coverage of Benjamin Netanyahu was "not especially fair," Israel Hayom's coverage was biased in favor of Netanyahu in most editorial decisions, that the paper chooses to play down events that don't help to promote a positive image for Netanyahu, while on the other hand, touting and inflating events that help promote Netanyahu and the Likud. Oren Persico reached the same conclusion after the 2009 Knesset elections, writing that throughout the campaign, Israel Hayom published only one article critical of the Likud, and tens of articles critical of Kadima.
The popular nickname of Israel Hayom is "Bibiton," a combination of Benjamin Netanyahu's nickname "Bibi" with the Hebrew word for newspaper, "iton." While in the Prime Minister's office, Ehud Olmert criticized Israel Hayom. Journalist Ben-Dror Yemini has described the paper as "endless capital with a political agenda."
In July 2010, Israel Hayom surpassed Yedioth Ahronoth in weekday exposure rate in the semi-annual Target Group Index (TGI) survey with a rate of 35.2% compared with Yedioth's 34.9%. After only a few months of publication of a weekend edition, it scored it 25.7% of exposure compared with Yedioth's 43.7% rate.
According to the TGI survey published in 2015, Israel Hayom has 40.8% weekday readership exposure, Yedioth Ahronoth 35.5%, Israel Post 7.7%, Haaretz 4.6%, Globes 4.3% and Maariv 4.2%.