Tabloid (newspaper format)

This article is about the printing format. For the style of journalist, see Tabloid journalism.
British tabloids (top two rows), July 5, 2011

A tabloid is a newspaper with a compact page size smaller than broadsheet. There is no standard size for this newspaper format.

The term tabloid journalism refers to an emphasis on such topics as sensational crime stories, astrology, celebrity gossip and television, and is not a reference to newspapers printed in this format. Some small-format papers with a high standard of journalism refer to themselves as compact newspapers. Larger newspapers, traditionally associated with higher-quality journalism, are called broadsheets, even if the newspaper is now printed on smaller pages. In common usage, tabloid and broadsheet are frequently more descriptive of a newspaper's market position than physical format.

The Berliner format used by many prominent European newspapers is sized between the tabloid and the broadsheet. In a newspaper context, the term Berliner is generally used only to describe size, not to refer to other qualities of the publication.


3 pill pots from the Burroughs Wellcome and Company : Tabloid Mixed Glands No. 2 tablets, Emprazil tablets and Tabloid Acetylsalicylic Aid tablets [Aspirin]
Tabloid products: Burroughs Wellcome and Company

The word "tabloid" comes from the name given by the London-based pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome & Co. to the compressed tablets they marketed as "Tabloid" pills in the late 1880s.[1] The connotation of tabloid was soon applied to other small compressed items. A 1902 item in London's Westminister Gazette noted, "The proprietor intends to give in tabloid form all the news printed by other journals." Thus "tabloid journalism" in 1901 originally meant a paper that condensed stories into a simplified, easily absorbed format. The term preceded the 1918 reference to smaller sheet newspapers that contained the condensed stories.[2]


Comparison of some newspaper sizes with metric paper sizes. Approximate nominal dimensions are in millimetres.

A tabloid is defined as "roughly 17 by 11 inches (432 by 279 mm)" and commonly "half the size of a broadsheet".


Tabloid newspapers, especially in the United Kingdom, boast a very high degree of variation as far as target market, political alignment, editorial style, and circulation are concerned. Thus, various terms have been coined to describe the subtypes of this versatile paper format. There are, broadly, two main types of tabloid newspaper: red top and compact. The distinction is largely of editorial style; both red top and compact tabloids span the width of the political spectrum from socialism to capitalist conservatism. Red top tabloids are so named due to their tendency, in British and Commonwealth usage, to have their mastheads printed in red ink; the term compact was coined to avoid the connotation of the word tabloid, which implies a red top tabloid, and has lent its name to tabloid journalism, which is journalism after the fashion of red top reporters.

Red top tabloids

See also: Red tops

The red top tabloid is, for many, the prototypical example of the format; the ubiquity of this editorial style among newspapers of the tabloid format has made it persist in the minds of the public. Red top tabloids, named after their distinguishing red mastheads, employ a form of writing known as tabloid journalism; this style emphasizes features such as sensational crime stories, astrology, gossip columns about the personal lives of celebrities and sports stars, and junk food news. Celebrity gossip columns which appear in red top tabloids and focus on their sexual practices, misuse of narcotics, and the private aspects of their lives often border on, and sometimes cross the line of defamation.

Red tops tend to be written with a simplistic, straightforward vocabulary and grammar; their layout, more often than not, gives greater prominence to the picture than to the word. The writing style of red top tabloids is, ofttimes, accused of sensationalism; in other words, red tops have been accused of deliberately igniting controversy and selectively reporting on attention-grabbing stories, or those with shock value. In the extreme case, red top tabloids have been accused of lying or misrepresenting the truth to increase circulation. Irrespective of such criticism, it is undeniably true that red tops have more open political leanings; stories can, and do, include calls for the resignation of a particular politician, or include political comment inside of an article. Poll results are often predicted by red top papers.

Examples of British red top newspapers include The Sun, the Daily Star, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Sport.

Compact tabloids

In contrast to red top tabloids, compacts use an editorial style more closely associated with broadsheet newspapers. In fact, most compact tabloids formerly used the broadsheet paper size, but changed to accommodate reading in tight spaces, such as on a crowded commuter bus or train. The term compact was coined in the 1970s by the Daily Mail, one of the earlier newspapers to make the change, although it now once again calls itself a tabloid. The purpose behind this was to avoid the association of the word tabloid with the flamboyant, salacious editorial style of the red top newspaper.

The early converts from broadsheet format made the change in the 1970s; two notable British papers that took this step at the time were the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. In 2003, The Independent also made the change for the same reasons, quickly followed by The Scotsman and The Times. On the other hand, The Morning Star had always used the tabloid size, but stands in contrast to both the red top papers and the former broadsheets; although The Morning Star emphasises hard news, it embraces socialism and is circulated mostly among blue-collar labourers.

Compact tabloids, just like broadsheet- and Berliner-format newspapers, span the political spectrum from progressive to conservative and from capitalist to socialist. The readership also differs greatly; one of Britain's most well-known tabloids, the Daily Mail, boasts a mostly female readership, whereas that of The Morning Star, in keeping with its political leanings, is of trade unionists.

International use

For a list of newspapers publishing in the compact "tabloid" format, see Compact (newspaper).

United States

"A photographer's photographer" quote by First Lady Mrs. Warren G. Harding who stated the Edward Jackson's photograph of her was "the best photo ever taken." The photo ran on the entire front page of the February 5, 1921 New York Daily News.

In the United States, daily tabloids date back to the founding of the New York Daily News in 1919, followed by the New York Daily Mirror and the New York Evening Graphic in the 1920s. Competition among those three for crime, sex and celebrity news was considered a scandal to the mainstream press of the day. In comparison, today's American daily tabloids are generally much less overheated and less oriented towards scandal and sensationalism than their predecessors or their British counterparts. The tabloid format is used by a number of respected and indeed prize-winning American papers.

Prominent U.S. tabloids include the New York Post, the Daily News and Newsday in New York, the San Francisco Examiner, The Bakersfield Californian and La Opinión in California, The Jersey Journal and The Trentonian in New Jersey, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Delaware County Daily Times and The Citizens' Voice, the The Burlington Free Press, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Boston Herald.

US tabloids that ceased publication include Denver's Rocky Mountain News.


In Canada many newspapers of Postmedia's Sun brand are in tabloid format including The Province, a newspaper for the British Columbia market. The Canadian publisher Black Press publishes newspapers in both tabloid (10 14 in (260 mm) wide by 14 12 in (368 mm) deep) and what it calls "tall tab" format, where the latter is 10 14 in (260 mm) wide by 16 14 in (413 mm) deep, larger than tabloid but smaller than the broadsheets it also publishes.[3]


The biggest tabloid (and newspaper in general) in Europe, by circulation, is Germany's Bild, 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.

In Britain, three previously broadsheet daily newspapers—The Independent, The Times, and The Scotsman—have switched to tabloid size in recent years, and two—Daily Express and Daily Mail—in former years, although all of the above call the format "compact" to avoid the down-market connotation of the word tabloid. 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- and middle-market compact newspapers. The Morning Star also comes in tabloid format; however, it avoids celebrity stories, and instead favours issues relating to labour unions.

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'. De Telegraaf, the Dutch newspaper that most closely resembles the style of British tabloid papers, comes in broadsheet but announced it will change to tabloid in April 2014.[4]

In Norway, close to all newspapers have switched from the broadsheet to the tabloid format, which measures 280 x 400 mm. The three biggest newspapers are VG, Dagbladet, and Aftenposten, the former the most sensationalist one and the latter more serious.

In France the Nice Matin, a popular Southern France newspaper changed from Broadsheet to Tabloid on 8 April 2006. They changed the printing format in one day after test results showed that 74% liked the Tabloid format compared to Broadsheet. But the most famous tabloid dealing with crime stories is Le Nouveau Détective, created in the early 20th century. This weekly tabloid has a national circulation.

In Denmark, tabloids in the British sense are known as 'formiddagsblade' (before-noon newspapers), the two biggest being BT and Ekstra Bladet. The old more serious newspaper Berlingske Tidende shifted from broadsheet to tabloid format in 2006, while keeping the news profile intact.

The biggest newspaper in Finland and biggest daily subscription newspaper in the Nordic countries Helsingin Sanomat changed its size from broadsheet to tabloid on 8 January 2013.

In Poland, the newspaper Fakt, sometimes Super Express is considered as tabloid.[5]

South Asia


Tabloid journalism is still an evolving concept in India's print media. The first tabloid, Blitz was started by Russi Karanjia on February 1, 1941 with the words "Our Blitz, India's Blitz against Hitler!". Blitz was first published in English and then branched out with Hindi, Marathi and Urdu versions. In 1974, Russi's daughter Rita founded the Cine Blitz magazine. The first issue featured Zeenat Aman on the cover and a streaking Protima Bedi inside. The venerable Times of India too changed its entire content, tone and editorial style in 2002. It now features more sensationalist stories, snappy headlines, and Page3 parties. In 2005, Times of India brought out a dedicated Mumbai tabloid newspaper Mumbai Mirror which gives prominence to Mumbai-related stories and issues. Tehelka started off as a news portal in 2000 and broke the match-fixing story in Indian and International Cricket and later on a sting operation on defence deals in Indian Army. In 2007, it closes shop and reappeared in tabloid form and has been appreciated for its brand of investigative journalism. Other popular tabloid newspapers in English media are Mid-Day, an afternoon newspaper published out of and dedicated to Mumbai and business newspapers like MINT. There are numerous tabloids in most of India's official languages. There is an all youth tabloid by the name of TILT - The ILIKE Times.


In Pakistan, Khabrain is a tabloid newspaper popular within the lower middle class. This news group introduced a new paper, Naya Akhbar which is comparably more sensational. At the local level, many sensational tabloids can be seen but, unlike Khabrain or other big national newspapers, they are distributed only on local levels in districts.


In Bangladesh, The Daily Manabzamin became the first and is now the largest circulated Bengali language tabloid in the world, in 1998. Published from Bangladesh, by renowned news presenter Mahbuba Chowdhury, the Daily Manab Zamin is ranked in the Top 500 newspaper websites, and in the Top 10 Bengali news site categories in the world, and is the only newspaper in Bangladesh which houses credentials with FIFA, UEFA, The Football Association, Warner Bros., and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The Daily Manabzamin is led by Editor-in-Chief Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, who is also the regional correspondent for Voice of America and political talkshow host in Bengali television stations Banglavision and Channel i. The newspaper receives visitors from 179 countries, and hosts 770,000 unique IP visitors, every month.


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 by engaging in critical investigative reporting.

Other countries

A tabloid is defined as "roughly 17 by 11 inches (432 by 279 mm)" and commonly "half the size of a broadsheet."

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 Kyiv 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 Australia, The Advertiser, Herald Sun, The Sun-Herald, Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail (All News Ltd papers), The West Australian, The Mercury, The Hamilton Spectator, The Portland Observer, The Casterton News and The Melbourne Observer.

In South Africa, the Bloemfontein-based daily newspaper Volksblad became the first serious broadsheet newspaper to switch to tabloid, but only on Saturdays. Despite the format proving to be popular with its readers, the newspaper remains broadsheet on weekdays. This is also true of Pietermaritzburg's daily, The Witness in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The Daily Sun published by Naspers has since become South Africas biggest selling daily newspaper and is aimed primarily at the black working class. It sells in excess of 500,000 copies per day reaching approximately 3,000,000 readers. News is gathered widely and reports on the almost-unbelievable, headline-making stories which Daily Sun journalist/news gatherers write from their encounters with real people, and astounding ‘eye-witness’ accounts of bizarre occurrences which are literally stunning. Besides offering a sometimes satirical view of the seriousness of mainstream news, the Daily Sun confers weightiness upon issues that would likely be treated with laughing dismissal in traditional South African broadsheets. Thus, the Daily Sun features stories about tokoloshes (hob-goblins), ancestral visions and all things supernatural and wildly absurd, together with localised stories and mainstream news. It is also published as the Sunday Sun.

In Brazil, many newspapers are tabloids, including sports daily Lance! (which circulates in cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), most publications currently and formerly owned by Grupo RBS (especially the Porto Alegre daily Zero Hora), and, in March 2009, Rio de Janeiro-based O Dia switched to tabloid from broadsheet, though, several years later, it reverted to being a broadsheet. Its sister publication, Meia Hora has always been a tabloid, but in slightly smaller format than O Dia and Lance!.

In Morocco, Maroc Soir, launched in November 2005, is published in tabloid format.[6]

As a weekly alternative newspaper

The more recent usage of the term 'tabloid' refers to weekly or semi-weekly newspapers in tabloid format. Many of these are essentially straightforward newspapers, publishing in tabloid format, because subway and bus commuters prefer to read smaller-size newspapers due to lack of space. These newspapers are distinguished from the major daily newspapers, in that they purport to offer an "alternative" viewpoint, either in the sense that the paper's editors are more locally oriented, or that the paper is editorially independent from major media conglomerates.

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, supermarkets, and the sex industry. Both usually contain ads from local bars, auto dealers, movie theaters, and a classified ads section.[7]

See also


  1. "Henry Wellcome the Sailesman". Wellcome. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  2. "tabloid, n. and adj.", Oxford English Dictionary online
  3. Archived March 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "Telegraaf op Zondag terug". 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  5. Cathie Burton, Alun Drake, Hitting the headlines in Europe: a country-by-country guide to effective media relations, 2004, ISBN 0-7494-4226-3. Google. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  6. "Morocco: New French speaking paper for the younger generation" (PDF). Press Business (1). February 2006. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  7. Archived March 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
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