Shrinking one way or another

Hmmm. In the U.S., just about the only papers that are growing are New York’s tabs, the Post and Daily News. But in the U.K., it’s the tabloid (“red tops,” they’re called) are the ones taking the meanest hit in newspapers’ circulation decline (News of the World down 300,000 copies!). Wonder Why. In the Independent, Peter Cole speculates on the reason for the decline over there:

Why should the mass circulation papers be the ones suffering most? Aren’t their readers less likely to be migrating to the web? Young readers and newspapers tend to avoid each other, but this is probably more evident at the red-top end of the market. The diet of celebrity is available elsewhere; sport is better treated on the web; sex coverage, whether it is Page Three, kiss-and-tell or scandal in high places, seems tired. We either fail to be shocked or feel increasingly uncomfortable about press intrusion into private lives.

In the U.S., I think, it’s just that most newspapers are dull and the tabs are practically the only ones with a recognizable voice. Maybe. And in the U.K., I think there may be a few obvious angles: first, the growth of free papers and the fact that after the quality papers shrunk to new formats, they were suddenly just as convenient for a subway read as the tabs. In the U.K, they seem to assume that no one of the higher class would ever read the red tops. Here, the Post is read by everybody.

: In the Observer, Peter Preston covers a success story: the resurrection of the FT into a growing, profitable paper.


  1. Mark says:

    Until the “Halp us Jon Carry” banner was published on the front page of the NY Post (one of the very few papers, if not the only one to put it on the front page), I’d never, ever, bought a hard copy, but I bought that one because it was so amusing and topical at that.

    It turns out it’s quite an entertaining paper, yes a lot of sensational headlines, but a lot of interesting little tidbits sprinkled throughout. If the Post were straight, always serious, plain old news, they’d not have a chance — I get that 24/7 online, but now I’m hooked (and they have “scratch n’ win” besides!)

  2. Jim Karna says:

    Interesting speculation in yesterdays Inde about the future of newspapers…

  3. Looking Busy@work says:

    The problem is that in the UK the tabloids have gone from entertaining to just plain scaremongering. The standard of journalism has gone from sensationalist, the base for a tabloid paper, to, in many case just lies. In the past there was an element of truth in the stories they ran now you have to read it upside down to even try and make sense of it.
    The Sun is probably the biggest cluprit of the lot, they are so in bed with Blair that it has become boring to read. Inestigative journalism has long since left the ‘red tops’ and until it returns they will be full of heard it all before kiss and tell stories that a few years ago would have been interesting but now are ten-a-penny.

  4. RichW says:

    I don’t think the decline of the “redtops” in the UK is a class thing: an old colleague at Reuters once told me that the dealing room guys always read The Sun in downtime for its sporting and er, feminine attributes. I’ve no doubt in my mind that the younger redtop demographic, of whatever class, are going online for their gossip and celebrity culture and older demographics are turning to mags like Heat and increasingly to digital TV. In terms of class, the early adopters of satellite TV in the UK were social group C’s and D’s.

    It’s actually a lifestyle thing: the redtops look increasingly dated and tired, and feed almost exclusively on the TV/Film celebrity agenda. And a return to investigative journalism circa 1966 when the People and The Daily Mirror were the papers the journalists read to see which stories they’d missed is not the answer: not unless the investigation can fit into a mobile screen and involves a secret tryst between Jordan and Justin Timberlake. Literacy and expectations have changed.

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