A tabloid is a newspaper — especially in the United Kingdom — that uses the tabloid format, which is roughly 23½ by 14¾ inches per spread. This is the smaller of two standard newspaper sizes; the larger newspapers, associated with higher-quality journalism, are called broadsheets. (Ironically, three of the UK's broadsheet newspapers - The Independent, The Times, and The Scotsman have now switched to tabloid size. Due to the negative connotations of that word, however, these half-size 'quality' newspapers are referred to as 'compact' editions.)
The name seems to derive from Burroughs-Wellcome's 1884 trademark for their process of making "tablet-like" compressed pharmaceuticals. The connotation of compressed tablet was soon been applied to other small things and to the "compressed' journalism that condensed stories into a simplified, easily-absorbed format. The label of "tabloid journalism" (1901) preceded the smaller sheet newspapers that contained it (1918).
There are two distinct uses of the term today. The more recent usage, actually deriving from the original usage, refers to weekly or semi-weekly alternative papers in tabloid format. Many of these are essentially straightforward newspapers, publishing in tabloid format. What principally distinguishes these from the dailies, in addition to their less-frequent publication, is the fact that they are usually free to the user, relying on ad revenue, as well as the fact that they tend to concentrate more on local entertainment scenes and issues.
In its traditional sense, tabloids tend to emphasise sensational stories and are reportedly prone to create their news if they feel that the subjects cannot, or will not, sue for libel. In this respect, much of the content of the tabloid press could be said to fall into the category of junk food news.
This style of journalism has been exported to the United States and various other countries. In the People's Republic of China, Chinese tabloids have exploded in popularity since the mid-1990s and have tested the limits of press censorship by taking editorial positions critical of the government and for engaging in critical investigative reporting.
Since 1999 all major US supermarket tabloids (as distinct from local newspapers in the tabloid format; i.e., the Enquirer, Star, Globe, Examiner, ¡Mira!, Sun, and Weekly World News) have been under single ownership, which some readers fear has undermined the tabloids' traditional competitiveness and has significantly altered their editorial policies and news coverage.
The biggest tabloid (and newspaper in general) in Europe, by circulation, is Germany's Bild-Zeitung, with around 4 million copies (down from above 5 million in the 1980s). Although its paper size is bigger, its style was copied from the British tabloids.
Further, The Independent, a broadsheet in terms of content, began producing an alternative, tabloid-sized edition (with the same content as the main paper) in October 2003. The Times followed suit the following month. Since 17 May 2004, The Independent has been published in tabloid format only, billing itself as the "only quality compact" perhaps as a mocking jibe at The Times or the Daily Mail (which considers itself a quality newspaper). However, The Times hit back, pointing to its higher circulation, with a slogan "the no. 1 quality compact" and phased out the broadsheet format completely as of November 1 2004. The idea is to appeal to commuters who can read the smaller paper more easily on public transport. Subsequently, The Guardian has announced it will switch to a "Berliner" or "midi " format by 2006. This is a format slightly larger than the traditional British tabloid.
- Yukan Fuji (Fuji-Sankei Grorp)
- Nikkan Gendai (Kodansha Grorp)
- Association of Alternative Newsweeklies http://aan.org/gbase/Aan/index
- Online Etymological Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=t Tabloid
Last updated: 02-02-2005 23:35:21