A tabloid is a newspaper industry term which refers to a smaller newspaper format per spread; to a weekly or semi-weekly alternative newspaper that focuses on local-interest stories and entertainment, often distributed free of charge (often in a smaller, tabloid-sized newspaper format); or to a newspaper that tends to emphasize sensational crime stories, gossip columns repeating scandalous innuendos about the personal lives of celebrities and sports stars, and other so-called "junk food news" (often in a smaller, tabloid-sized newspaper format). As the term "tabloid" has become synonymous with down-market newspapers in some areas, some papers refer to themselves as "Compact" newspapers instead.
The tabloid newspaper format is particularly popular in the United Kingdom where its dimensions are roughly 17 by 11 inches (430 mm × 280 mm) per spread. Larger newspapers, traditionally associated with 'higher-quality' journalism, are called broadsheets though several British 'quality' papers have recently adopted the tabloid format. Another UK newspaper format is the Berliner, which is sized between the tabloid and the broadsheet and has been adopted by The Guardian and its sister paper The Observer.
An early pioneer of tabloid journalism was Alfred Harmsworth (1865–1922), who amassed a large publishing empire of halfpenny papers by rescuing failing stolid papers and transforming them to reflect the popular taste, which yielded him enormous profits. Harmsworth used his tabloids to influence public opinion, for example, by bringing down the wartime government of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith in the Shell Crisis of 1915.
However, since its initial purchase by Rupert Murdoch in 1976, the New York Post has become the exemplar of the brash British-style tabloid in the US, and its competition with the Daily News has become newspaper legend.
Prominent US tabloids include nationally the Metro, locally, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, the Boston Herald, the New York Observer, Newsday on New York's Long Island and The Examiner, which is a free newspaper published in San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. (Newsday co-founder Alicia Patterson was the daughter of Joseph Patterson, founder of the New York Daily News.)
In the UK, three previously broadsheet daily newspapers—The Independent, The Times, and The Scotsman—have switched to tabloid size in recent years, although they call it "compact" to avoid the down-market connotation of that word. Similarly, when referring to the down-market tabloid newspapers the alternative term "red-top" (referring to their traditionally red-coloured mastheads) is increasingly used, to distinguish them from the up-market compact newspapers.
In the Netherlands, several newspapers have started publishing tabloid versions of their newspapers, including one of the major 'quality' newspapers, NRC Handelsblad, with NRC•Next in 2006. Two free tabloid newspapers were also introduced in the early 2000s, 'Metro and Sp!ts, mostly for distribution in public transportation. In 2007 a third and fourth free tabloid appeared, 'De Pers' and 'DAG'.
In France the Nice Matin, a popular Southern France newspaper changed from Broadsheet to Tabloid on April 8 2006. They changed the printing format in one day after test results showed that 74% liked the Tabloid format compared to Broadsheet.
In Denmark the newspaper Berlingske Tidende shifted from Broadsheet to Tabloid format in 2006.
When a tabloid is defined as "roughly 17 by 11 inches" and commonly "half the size of a broadsheet," confusion can arise because "Many broadsheets measure roughly 29½ by 23½ inches", half of which is roughly 15" x 12" not 17" x 11".
In Oman, TheWeek is a free, 48-page, all-colour, independent weekly published from Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman. Oman’s first free newspaper was launched in March 2003 and has now gone on to gather what is believed to be the largest readership for any publication in Oman. Ms Mohana Prabhakar is the managing editor of the publication. TheWeek is audited by BPA Worldwide, which has certified its circulation as being a weekly average of 50,300.
In Georgia, the weekly English-language newspaper The FINANCIAL switched to a compact format in 2005 and doubled the number of pages in each issue. Other Georgian-language newspapers have tested compact formats in the early 1990s.
In Russia and Ukraine, major English language newspapers like the Moscow Times and the Kiev Post use a compact format.
In Argentina, one of the country's two main newspapers, Clarín, is a tabloid and in the Southern Philippines, a new weekly tabloid, The Mindanao Examiner, now includes media services, such as photography and video production, into its line as a source to finance the high cost of printing and other expenses. It is also into independent film making.
In India - Mid-Day and Afternoon are the leading tabloids. Mid-Day is particularly known for publishing sensationalizing stories about celebrities.
Other factors that distinguish "alternative" weekly tabloids from the major daily newspapers are their less-frequent publication, and that they are usually free to the user, since they rely on ad revenue. As well, alternative weekly tabloids tend to concentrate on local- or even neighbourhood-level issues, and on local entertainment in the bars and local theatres.
Alternative tabloids can be positioned as upmarket (quality) newspapers, to appeal to the better-educated, higher-income sector of the market; as middle-market (popular); or as downmarket (sensational) newspapers, which emphasize sensational crime stories and celebrity gossip. In each case, the newspapers will draw their advertising revenue from different types of businesses or services. An upmarket weekly's advertisers are often organic-grocers, boutiques, and theatre-companies while a downmarket's may have those of trade-schools, super-markets, and adult-services, both usually contain ads from local bars, auto-dealers, movie theaters, and a classified-ads section.
Supermarket tabloids are large, national versions of these tabloids, usually published weekly. They are named for their prominent placement along the checkout lines of supermarkets. Supermarket tabloids are particularly notorious for the over-the-top sensationalizing of stories, the facts of which can often be called into question. These tabloids - such as The Globe and The National Enquirer - often use aggressive and usually mean-spirited tactics to sell their issues. Unlike regular tabloid-format newspapers, supermarket tabloids are distributed through the magazine distribution channel, similarly to other weekly magazines and mass-market paperback books. Leading examples include The National Enquirer, Star, Weekly World News (now defunct), and Sun. The oldest supermarket tabloid known to date was the American "Daily News" in 1919; if it didn't have news to publish, it would simply make up a story, have the newspaper staff stage a photograph, then use an editing technique called the composograph to combine the fake image with a real one.
Tabloid newspapers in Britain, collectively called the "tabloid press", tend to be simply and sensationally written, and to give more prominence than broadsheets to celebrities, sports, crime stories and even hoaxes; they also more readily take a political position (either left-wing or right-wing) on news stories, ridiculing politicians, demanding resignations and predicting election results. The term red top refers to tabloids with red nameplates, such as The Sun, the Daily Star, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Sport, and distinguishes them from the black top Daily Express and Daily Mail. Red top newspapers are usually simpler in writing style, dominated by pictures, and directed at the more sensational end of the market.