William's father, Henry Woodfall, printed and published the Public Advertiser. William served an apprenticeship with him after attending St. Paul's School, London, and Tonbridge School, where his nickname was "Memory Woodfall".
Following his father's retirement, Woodfall shared the running of the Public Advertiser with his brother Henry Sampson Woodfall. In 1769 William Woodfall founded the Morning Chronicle as publisher, editor, and reporter. In 1789 he sold his interest in the Morning Chronicle and founded The Diary, or Woodfall's Register, which pioneered the full reporting of Parliamentary debates. Because of the ban on note-taking in the House of Commons, he had memorised what was said, writing it down afterwards. The Diary was published from 30 March 1789 to 31 August 1793. Under the name "Adams", Woodfall acted on the stage in Scotland. His son Thomas, a publisher and printer of theatre bills, married the actress Clementina Collins in 1796.
William Woodfall's reporting was frequently controversial. Edmund Burke sued him for libel and, in 1779, Woodfall was found guilty of printing and publishing a leaflet supporting the acquittal of Admiral Augustus Keppell. He was sentenced to 12 months in Newgate Prison.
In 1789, he passed control of The Morning Chronicle to James Perry and relinquished control of The Public Advertiser in 1793.
- "Woodfall, William". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- "The Life of a London Journal. From the London Star.". NY Times. 7 April 1862.
- The Eighteenth-Century Periodical and the Theatre: 1715–1803, Auburn University
- Highfill, Jr., Philip H.; Burnim, Kalman A.; Langhans, Edward A. (eds.) (1975). "Collins, Clementina". Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660–1800. vol. 3. Southern Illinois University Press. p. 397.