Let's face it. The tabloid magazines don't have a terrific reputation in the world of journalism. Yet they fly off the supermarket magazine racks like the proverbial hot cakes on Saturday morning's breakfast table. Some people actually subscribe to their favorite tabloid magazines, to avoid missing one juicy issue.
I once worked for a woman who subscribed to a number of them. When she was done with them, she brought them into her little country store and resold them, at half price, after she'd clipped those very special items she couldn't bear to part with, saving them for ...? The items she clipped seemed to have no particular theme, such as every little tidbit on any one celebrity, so it just seemed like a rather strange hobby. I'm not sure the reselling was entirely legal, but the locals would come in and snap them up. Talk about yesterday's news. She must have consumed them as soon as they hit her mailbox, because I noticed that some still bore the current week's date.
In any case, there's no question that tabloid magazines are hugely popular. While my former employer had no compunction about admitting her addiction, I'm sure there are regular readers who wouldn't ever admit to being fans. Hmm ... this does remind me of Katie Couric's interview question to Sarah Palin on her reading materials of choice. Is Ms. Palin one of these secret tabloid magazine readers? I'm sure we'll never know.
So what's the allure? What keeps these readers enthralled? There's got to be a gossip factor here. The usual front cover targets of the tabloids are celebrities and politicians. The topics typically involve some sort of scandal, rumor or terminal illness. If the article is unfavorable to the target, it's usually accompanied by the most unflattering photo the magazine can find in their files. If the piece is some report on someone's 'life and death struggle with name-your-disease', the photos are most likely a collection of pics of a flattering, heartwarming nature, designed to tug at the reader's heartstrings.
When you take a look at some of these articles, you wonder how these tabloid magazines stay ahead of the lawsuits. Many celebrities say it's not worth the effort, unless it's particularly slanderous or patently untrue. When you examine the rhetoric, these writers rely on clever phrasing and innuendo, which probably helps stave off lawsuits.
My thesaurus gives several synonyms for tabloid, among them, lurid, sultry and sensationalism, which does point towards the gossip factor. I'd say the average reader would never come across such juicy gossip in their own circle of friends. Unless they live in the 'Desperate Housewives' neighborhood. Can't you imagine how this content spices up the over-the-fence chat?
While the cover story may take up several pages of the issue, it needs to be filled out to make it worth the price. These fillers are stories such as a 1200 pound man who hasn't left his house in months, because he can't fit through the door, alien invasions, end of the world predictions and others in the same vein, the weirder, the better.
So how do I know so much about tabloid magazines? That woman I worked for would occasionally bring issues to give me, as sort of an employee perk. I admit to taking them home and reading them with my daughter. We did get a good laugh or three before they were relegated to service in getting a fire going in the wood stove. In addition to gossip, I can vouch for the entertainment value.