The Origin of the Tabloid

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The term "tabloid" refers to a cut-paper size, a small newspaper and a type of journalism. You might encounter the term when buying paper for your home printer, setting up a digital file for a folded newsletter or reading a gossip publication in line at the grocery store.

Tabloid Paper Size

Tabloid cut-size paper measures 11 inches by 17 inches, twice the size of a letter-size sheet of paper. Most home printers aren't large enough to print on tabloid-size paper, but those that can are advertised as tabloid or super tabloid printers. Tabloid printers can accept paper up to 11 inches by 17 inches. Super tabloid printers accept paper up to 13 inches by 19 inches. Newsletters are frequently printed on tabloid-size paper and then folded in half to letter size. 

Tabloid Newspapers 

In the world of newspapers, there are two familiar sizes: broadsheet and tabloid. The large broadsheet size of newsprint used in many newspapers measures approximately 29.5 by 23.5 inches, a size that varies among countries and publications.

When printed and folded in half, the size of the newspaper's front page measures about 15 inches wide by 22 or more inches long. A tabloid publication starts out with a sheet of paper that is half the size of a broadsheet, close to — but not necessarily as small as — the 11-by-17-inch standard tabloid paper size. 

You may encounter tabloid publications as inserts in your daily full-size newspaper. Some former broadsheet-sized newspapers have downsized to print only as tabloids in an effort to survive in the struggling print environment.

To distance themselves from the negative associations of tabloids in the newspaper industry — that of sensationalist, lurid stories about celebrities and crimes — some downsized traditional publications including former broadsheet newspapers use the term "compact." 

Those familiar gossip-type newspapers — the ones you see in line at the supermarket — have always been tabloids. They started life practicing what came to be known as tabloid journalism. For years, tabloids were viewed as being for the working class and broadsheet newspapers being for educated readers. That perception has changed.

Although some tabloid publications still focus on the sensational, many reputable publications, including award-winning newspapers, are tabloid-size publications. They still do hard-hitting, fact-based journalism. The largest tabloid newspaper in the U.S. is the New York Daily News. It has won 10 Pulitzer Prizes in its history.

Tabloid Journalism

The term "tabloid journalism" dates to the early 1900s when it referred to a small newspaper that contained condensed stories that were easily read by everyday readers. The term soon became synonymous with stories of scandals, graphic crime and celebrity news. This negative reputation repelled reputable newspaper publishers and journalists, and for years tabloids were the lowly step-sisters of the journalism profession.

With the changing financial outlook for printed newspapers in the digital age, some reputable newspapers rushed to downsize to tabloid format in an effort to save money and continue publication. Despite this, almost all the major newspapers in the U.S. are still broadsheets. Some of these have taken the less severe option of using a smaller broadsheet size. 

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Bear, Jacci Howard. "The Origin of the Tabloid." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Bear, Jacci Howard. (2021, July 30). The Origin of the Tabloid. Retrieved from Bear, Jacci Howard. "The Origin of the Tabloid." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).