Tabloids can be defined as a type of newspapers that pay more attention to sensationalism rather than hard news stories. They focus on articles about celebrities, events and gossip concerning them or bizarre occurrences in the lives of ordinary people, whom the general reader may relate to.
The term "tabloid" is a combination between the words "tablet" and "alkaloid" and first emerged in the late 1880s. London-based pharmaceutical firm Burroughs Wellcome & Co registered the term as a trademark for its compressed pills. Although it is still technically property of the company, the word has since become a common noun for anything with a compact size, including the compressed newspaper format.
The page dimensions of a tabloid newspaper in the United Kingdom are approximately 17 by 11 inches, equating to about half the size of most broadsheets. At first the term was associated with size only, as some publishers chose to print their newspapers in smaller format to make it easier for readers to go through pages. With the passing of time, people started associating the word tabloid with scandalous content. That is why many serious papers printed in the same format prefer to simply be referred to as "compact".
As sensational stories became more and more popular, a new style of writing called yellow journalism came to existence. In the 1890s, around the time of the Spanish-American war, the media proved to be a strong force that fueled the conflict between the two countries. The term yellow journalism emerged as a result of the rivalry between American newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal.
Apart from its sensationalized stories, Pulitzer's paper became popular for its Hogan's Alley color comic strip, drawn by Richard Felton Outcault and featuring a character called "the yellow kid." As Hearst did not want to fall behind, he hired Outcault away from New York World to get his own similar character. After Pulitzer signed a new artist to carry on with the work on the Hogan's Alley comic, the papers ended up competing with each other through their two "yellow kids," hence the name of the new style of journalism.
Tabloids count on attracting readers by printing stories with a clear focus on local interests and entertainment. This type of newspapers covers topics such as sex, tragedy and scandal as well as paranormal or supernatural phenomena. They also include tips on self-improvement, fashion, household issues and health. However, this can be seen as a supplement to the predominant articles about famous people and their lives.
In order to sell more copies, tabloids aim at attracting readers through a dramatic front page, including provocative picture material and large-font headlines with bright colors. The content of the headlines also plays an important role, comprising words that draw people's attention through reference to subjects of common interest. Another method used to lure readers is the strategic placement of the newspapers at the checkout counters of supermarkets.
Examples for supermarket tabloids printed in the United States include The National Enquirer, first published in 1926, Star (1974), The Globe (1954), Sun (1983) and Weekly World News (1979-2007). These publications are all controlled by local organization American Media Inc. The first U.S daily printed in the tabloid format was the Daily News of New York City, which was founded in 1919 by Joseph Medill Patterson and his cousin Robert Rutherford McCormick. In 2011, Mortimer Benjamin Zuckerman took over the newspaper.
In the United Kingdom, tabloids are classified as redtop and blacktop, based on the color of their mastheads. The redtop British tabloids are focused on sensational stories, while the blacktop ones are seen as more serious when it comes to their style of journalism. An example for a redtop tabloid is The Sun, which was launched in 1964 and is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. It is one of the most popular tabloids printed in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
The Daily Mail, which was launched in 1896 as a broadsheet, represents blacktop tabloids. The paper changed its format to the compact one in 1971. One of the best known tabloids in the United Kingdom, the News of the World, was closed in July 2011 following a scandal about phone-hacking. James Murdoch's decision to shut the newspaper after 168 years was described by some as "sensational" and shocked the workforce.