The Daily Cardinal is online every day, published in print each Thursday and distributed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in the surrounding community with a circulation of 10,000.
The Cardinal is a nonprofit organization run by its staff members and elected editors. It receives no funds from the university and is completely independent. Operating revenue is generated from advertising and subscription sales.
The Daily Cardinal was founded by Monroe, Wisconsin natives William Wesley Young, the University of Wisconsin–Madison's first journalism student, and William Saucerman to be a rival to the monthly student paper Aegis. Four hundred free copies of the paper were made available to Wisconsin students on April 4, 1892. For the first month of production, Young rode his horse down State Street to the offices of the Madison Democrat, which printed the Cardinal. The newspaper's name was decided by a vote of university students, "Cardinal" representing one of the school colors.