For the best experience, view this post about British newspapers on our website.
News is generally consumed via the TV, radio or the Internet in the UK, but 49% of UK adults use newspapers as their main platform to read the news- either printed or digital. The circulation of printed newspapers has decreased dramatically by over 50% since 2010, but with most newspapers offering an app or digital subscription, the numbers remain fairly high.
In the UK, we have two different types of newspapers: broadsheets and tabloids. Broadsheets are generally more “intellectual” newspapers, often called “quality press”. Whilst tabloids provide news on celebrity culture and human interest stories. The layout and content of these two types of newspapers is significantly different.
The quality of writing in broadsheets tends to be fairly high with acclaimed journalists, politicians and civil servants writing guest columns in these newspapers. The content in these broadsheets is current affairs, economics and business. Studies show that the typical reader of broadsheets in the UK is most interested in high quality, accurate journalism that provides depth and educated opinions about global affairs. If you’re an advanced speaker in English and looking to challenge your reading, then these are the newspapers to look out for.
Most broadsheets have supplements, which are industry-specific sections, such as jobs, culture and finance. Given the higher quality of writing, the cost of these newspapers tends to be higher too. The most popular broadsheet is The Guardian, with The Times and The Daily Telegraph falling shortly behind. But in the overall view of newspaper circulation, the numbers are a lot lower for broadsheets than for tabloids.
Predictably, tabloids are more popular given their heavy use of photography, simple use of the English language and celebrity culture stories. The most popular tabloid in the UK, by far, is the Daily Mail. We call this newspaper a “middle market tabloid” because, although it is a tabloid with celebrity gossip and is image led, it does include some articles on current affairs and economics. The extreme tabloids with very little “intellectual” content are called the red tops, only because the titles of all these newspapers are red. These are The Sun, The Daily Mirror and The Daily Star.
There are only 12 newspapers in the UK that circulate daily, but most of these major newspapers have a Sunday paper under the same name. Although they are connected by name, the type of articles, journalists and topics are generally vastly different. In addition to these national newspapers, most cities or counties have their own regional newspapers that focus on more local stories.
Although only 48% of adults use newspapers nowadays to consume news, before the age of the Internet, a newspaper was the primary source of current affairs and political opinion of a newspaper could easily sway voters. In the 21st century, most newspapers in the UK still have a political alignment, whether it is for a political party in an upcoming election or for/against in a national referendum. A few newspapers are stuck with one opinion. Take the example of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph who always support centre-right parties and the Daily Mirror, which has always supported the Labour party (left). Many newspapers change their political views with the times and publicly declare political backing of a candidate only when in a general election.
There has been a lot of research undertaken to find out the true influence of newspapers on political opinion of the British population and it’s often suggested that during the 1992 general election as well as the 2010 election the stories published by newspapers had a serious impact on the voting patterns of the British people.
And it’s not just politically that newspapers influence British society, but also socially. British tabloids are the leaders with an influential and liberal voice on racism, sexism, discrimination and other hot topics.
It’s true that since the birth of the Internet, circulation and popularity of newspapers has declined and predictions suggest that this trend will continue forward. But there is no denying of the influence and impact that broadsheets and tabloids have had on British society in the past and will, perhaps, continue to have for years to come.
Not every newspaper is good for learning English. Tabloids often have many mistakes and you may learn some incorrect English. We recommend using broadsheets for reliable English reading.
- Ofcom, Jigsaw Research. (2019). News Consumption in the UK: 2019.Available: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0027/157914/uk-news-consumption-2019-report.pdf. Last accessed 1st September 2020.