A paper size - 11" x 17". Really just 2 regular "letter" sized pieces of paper put together. Many larger printers have the option to print tabloid sized paper for engineering drawings, etc.

In modern English the word tabloid is generally used to denote any popular newspaper which "presents its news and features in a concentrated, easily assimilable, and often sensational form" especially, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, "one with smaller pages than those of a regular newspaper".


The origin of the word tabloid lies with two Americans named Silas Mainville Burroughs and Henry Solomon Wellcome who were both active in the pharmaceutical business. Burroughs came to London in 1878, initially as the European agent for Wyeth & Brother of Philadelphia, although in May 1878 he set up in business on his own account as S. M. Burroughs & Co. He was joined in the following year by Wellcome and the pair went into partnership together as Burroughs, Wellcome & Co, believing that there was a fortune to be made by introducing the British to the American innovation of compressed medicines, that is pills, which could be mass-produced, packaged and distributed across a wider geographic area than conventional medicinal preparations.

As The Times of the 30th March 1902 later pointed out, although at this time the word tablet had been used to denote compressed drugs, Henry Wellcome decided the company needed a brand name to help promote its products and so "set about finding a new word, and invented the word 'tabloid'", being simply a marriage of the existing 'tablet' with the 'oid' suffix, commonly used in science to denote something that had the "form or appearance" of another substance< small>(1). It was therefore on the 14th March 1884 that Messrs. Burroughs, Wellcome & Co of Snow Hill Buildings, Holborn Viaduct, London registered 'Tabloid' as a trademark which they subsequently used in marketing their compressed products, which at the time included not only the various pharmaceutical preparations sold by the business, but also other 'compressed' products such as Tabloid Tea as well as Tabloid bandages and photographic chemicals.

As it turned out the business of Burroughs, Wellcome & Co prospered and the 'Tabloid' trademark became well-known, so much so that the company felt obliged to prevent it general use. (In much the same way as Hoover later used to complain whenever anyone used the word 'hoover' to describe any old vacuum cleaner as opposed to one of their specific products.) However when the case reached court in 1903 Mr. Justice Byrne ruled that the "word Tabloid has become so well-known ... in consequence of the use of it by the Plaintiff firm in connection with their compressed drugs that I think it has acquired a secondary sense in which it has been used and may legitimately be used so long as it does not interfere with their trade rights. I think the word has been so applied generally with reference to the notion of a compressed form or dose of anything".

As it was Mr. Justice Byrne was quite correct, as the word tabloid had indeed come to be used to mean the "compressed form or dose of anything"; during World War I, a small Sopwith biplane was known as the 'tabloid' within the Royal Air Force, whilst during the 1930s the word was also used to refer to a "small cruising yacht". In the circumstances, it was therefore not surprising to see that in addition to tabloid boats and planes, the word also came to be applied to 'compressed' newspapers. The first person to do so was one Alfred Harmsworth, later the Viscount Northcliffe, who having enjoyed considerable success with the Daily Mail which first appeared on 4th May 1896, was invited by Joseph Pulitzer to edit the millennium edition of The World which appeared on the 1st January 1901 (2). It was Harmsworth who decided to halve the size of the newspaper for the day and referred to his creation as being a 'tabloid', although this was very much a one-off, and normal service returned to The World thereafter.

Since that time the world tabloid has been applied to newspapers in two separate senses. Firstly to denote a newspaper that presents the news in a condensed and easily understandable form, and secondly to a newspaper which is printed on a specific size of paper, often known as tabloid, which is otherwise defined by the American National Standards Institute as ANSI B, being 11 x 17 inches or 280 x 430 mm, that is exactly half the size of a broadsheet or 'ordinary' newspaper. Of course the two senses are inextricably linked, since content and form tend to follow each other, but although it is often claimed that tabloid newspapers are known as tabloids because they are printed on tabloid sized paper, it seems most likely that the reverse was the case. There are references from the Westminster Gazette of the 1st January 1901, which reported on the advocacy of "tabloid journalism". and again on the 1st April 1902, when one proprietor was said to be planning to "give in tabloid form all the news printed by other journals", as well as other numerous references to tabloid newspapers from the 1920s and early 1930s, although it wasn't until 1934 that the Daily Mirror became the first British newspaper to actually be printed in what became known as tabloid format (3).

There is therefore some disagreement as to which was the first British tabloid newspaper, with some claiming that it was the Daily Mail (on the grounds of content) and others the Daily Mirror (on the grounds of form), and although what is generally known as the tabloid press in Great Britain is indeed printed in tabloid size, it wasn't until the 1970s that the likes of The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express began to appear in tabloid format, whilst the current situation is confused by the fact that much of the quality press such as The Independent, The Times and The Guardian also now appear in tabloid format, although they would all naturally deny that their news content was in any way tabloid (4).


NOTES

1 The word tablet is derived from the French tablette meaning a small table, and which originally denoted any small, flat, and comparatively thin piece of material, but which from the seventeenth century had also come to mean any "compressed piece of some solid confection" such as a drug.
2 Some sources such as the Encyclopædia Britannica claim that this special edition of The World appeared on New Year's Day 1900. They have however, simply misunderstood references to this edition appearing on the first day of the twentieth century, as at time people were generally well aware of the fact that the new century and indeed the new millennium began in 1901, not 1900.
3 Although of course, it was the Americans got in first and it was the Illustrated News of New York in 1919 which became the first newspaper to adopt the format, and the Daily Mirror was consciously emulating the American press when it made the decision to adopt the smaller print format.
4 Strictly speaking The Guardian is printed in the Berliner format rather than tabloid, although the difference is only an inch or so and £80 million for a completely new printing press.


SOURCES

  • The Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com/
  • The enrtries for Wellcome, Sir Henry Solomon (1853–1936) and Burroughs, (Silas) Mainville (1846–1895) from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, http:// www.oxforddnb.com/
  • Alfred Harmsworth http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/BUharmsworth.htm
  • The world's first tabloid; The World, 1 Jan 1901 Courtesy of The British Library
    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/census/events/january3.htm
  • David Consuegra, American Type Design and Designers: Design and Designers (Allworth Communications, 2004)
  • NUJ Freelance Fees Guide: Definitions http://media.gn.apc.org/feesguide/glossary.html
  • Paper Sizes http://www.falkiners.com/paper_sizes.htm

Tab"loid (?), n. [A table-mark.]

A compressed portion of one or more drugs or chemicals, or of food, etc.

 

© Webster 1913


Tab"loid, a.

Compressed or condensed, as into a tabloid; administrated in or as in tabloids, or small condensed bits; as, a tabloid form of imparting information.

 

© Webster 1913

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