|You gotta spin it to win it|
|Stop the presses!|
|We want pictures|
A tabloid is a "news"paper that makes you buy it for the tits on page three and pictures of Kate Moss snorting cocaine on the front cover. Tabloids rarely, if ever, tell you any news. Technically, tabloid refers to the size of the paper, which is around half the size of a broadsheet newspaper. In a few cases, a former broadsheet has been relaunched or made available in a tabloid format, such as The Independent in the UK. Most often, however, the term is used to refer to the traditional tabloids which are associated with tabloid journalism or the "gutter press", a cynical and sensationalist approach to news stories, celebrities, and their readers.
The most typical, and arguably most objectionable, of the British tabloids are the "red tops", so called because the name of the paper invariably appears in a large bright red banner. An archetypal example is The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch, which is extremely bad yet extremely popular, and is often the one British paper (along with the mildly racist Daily Mail) to be found outside the UK. The Daily Mirror is another popular/populist red top. For sheer "tabloidiness", however, nothing is quite as one-track-minded as The Star or The Daily Sport — which, for the record, doesn't concentrate on sport, so we'll leave you to guess/Google what it does focus on. The News of the World was a particularly sleazy red top, and another Murdoch property, whose unethical (though probably not atypical) phone-hacking practices brought about its demise in 2011 (see the Leveson Inquiry).
A rung or two up from the red tops (at least they would like to think so) are tabloids like The Express and The Daily Mail, which have pretensions of being respectable family-friendly papers. This image is somewhat undermined by their focus on so-called "yellow journalism", which favours any story that sells the papers rather than actual accuracy. The Express in particular is heavily criticised for its overemphasis on Princess Diana, seemingly keeping her on front page life-support years after her death. The Mail is also known for its regressive attitudes to such subjects as immigration and multiculturalism.
The core tabloid readership is working class Britons, though a few rags like the Mail have middle class aspirations. Most of the tabloids are right-leaning, and openly pro-Tory, though a few like the Mirror support the Labour Party. The Sun, a longtime Tory paper, famously switched allegiance during the New Labour era, running a surprise headline of "The Sun backs Blair" a few weeks before the 1997 election which brought Tony Blair to power. In recent years it has crept back to its old pro-Conservative stance.
Tabloid-like behaviour is often associated with weekly glossy magazines. Originally, the glossy tabloid market was dominated by OK! and Hello! - which famously pay out fuckloads of cash for wedding photographs. Now they have since been joined by the likes of Love It! and Heat!, which now battle it out to see how low down the list of fame and importance they can drag up their cover-story celebrities from, how many weeks in a row they can feature the same person without anyone noticing and how inane they can make the Agony Aunt columns. Usually such magazines feature "stories about real people and celebrities", which sort of implies that vaguely famous people aren't actually real (if you want to play a fun semantics game).
Across the big pond
The United States has its own stable of tabloids with much the same appeal. The venerable National Enquirer and several competitors (strangely enough, now all published by the same company, American Media Inc. (AMI)) cover the celebrity gossip and scandal sheet market. These include papers named the Sun and the Star with apparently no relation to the tabloids of the same names in the U.K., along with the Globe. Another AMI weekly, the Weekly World News, went straight for the ridiculous and hilarious with parody stories on pseudoscience, and as a result picked up a readership of young hipsters, but is sadly defunct.
The venerable New York Post is a New York City daily that since its 1976 acquisition by Rupert Murdoch appears to be aping the U.K.'s Daily Mail in both style and editorial slant. Even more fringe-right is the weekly borderline-racist and conspiracy theorist American Free Press from Washington, D.C..
The readership: sadistic losers
David Pecker is the co-owner of American Media, Inc., which publishes supermarket tabloids including as of 2018, Globe, National Enquirer, National Examiner, and Star. According to Pecker, the readership are basically sadistic losers, stating:
“”Do they care about Tiger Woods? No. Do they play golf? No. But do they want to read about his indiscretions? Yes. Do they want to read that someone who is that successful is now failing? Yes. These are people that live their life failing, so they want to read negative things about people who have gone up and then come down.
Tabloids tend to be like trolls, if you respond in any way to a story they wrote about you (short of a legitimate libel suit), it's all the better for the tabloid.
“”If the story is just in the tabloids, we tend to ignore it. If you engage in tabloid culture, it will never stop, because the tabloid culture feeds on the conversation. If you respond, they just turn your response into a story. But if the fire jumps the road, and a story gets into the mainstream press, then we deal with it.
|—Jon Liebman, CEO of a Hollywood talent management firm|
- Why the National Enquirer loves Trump — and why that matters by Callum Borchers (June 26, 2017) The Washington Post.
- The National Enquirer’s Fervor for Trump: The tabloid is defined by its predatory spirit. Why has it embraced the President with such sycophantic zeal? by Jeffrey Toobin (July 3, 2017) The New Yorker.