Tabloid Magazine Readership in Hong Kong

 Ms. Erica Yuen.  Title: <Paparazzis have no conscience>

Erica Yuen (袁彌明) was a Miss Hong Kong contestant in 2005 and she has been frequently featured in Hong Kong tabloid magazines.  In her Apple Daily column (which is also published in her personal blog), she asked: Why are tabloid magazines so popular?  What is so interesting about them?

After asking friends and relatives, she believes that there are three types of tabloid magazine purchasers.  Here are her descriptions together with opinions and data from the ESWN blogger/translator.

Type 1:  Males

Theory: All men regardless of age are not really interested in the gossip news about celebrities.  Instead, their interests are about the sexy cover girls or the contents about automobiles, sneakers, electronic games, etc.

Let us see some data.  The following is a chart for tabloid magazine readership indices age within males.  Here, tabloid magazine readership is defined to be reading any of half a dozen weekly magazines (such as Next Weekly, Oriental Sunday, etc).  By definition, the average index across all persons 12 or older in Hong Kong is 100.  So when men 20-24 have an index of 189, it means that the incidence of tabloid magazine readership among them is 89% higher than among all persons 12 or older.

Accoding to this chart, tabloid magazine readership is not uniform across all male age group.  It is higher among Men 15-34.  While 'men' go for automobiles, sneakers and electronic games in general, the 12-14 years old are not yet interested in automobiles, while the 65+ men will probably never get into electronic games.

Type II: Full-time Housewives (師奶).

Theory: The housewives spend all day shopping and cooking.  They watch all the televisions shows, they know all the stars and they buy the tabloid magazines to enrich their knowledge about entertainment news in order to trade gossip with each other.

Let us see some data.  The first data point on the left is for all full-time housewives.  This is only 78, which is less than the overall incidence of all persons 12 or older.  Why?  Well, it depends on the family situation.  The next six columns are for housewives at different household monthly income levels.  The housewives in households with less than HK$8,000 in monthly income have much less interest in reading tabloids magazines.

Type III: Young women

Theory: Whereas the Type I and Type II readers may be indifferent to the front cover story, the young women are more sensitive and demanding about the entertainment headline.  The general assertion is that they are OL's (office ladies) or students who take delight in the miseries that female stars find themselves in.  Elements of jealousy, contempt and retribution are all involved.

Let us see some real data.  The chart below is for tabloid magazine readership index by age within females.  Readership is higher among females age 15 to 34 as theorized.

Theory: Some of these young women may be good-looking, well-educated, have good jobs and earn good money.  They look down on less-qualified men but the better-qualified and super-qualified men are already taken by these starlets or models.  So they take delight in the misfortunes of the rich and famous.

Let us see some real data.  The first column in the chart below is for female professionals, managers and administrators between the ages of 20 and 39, and the index of 128 is higher than the overall average.  The other columns are for females by household income.  As in the case of the full-time housewives, the indices are highest for middle- and upper-middle classes.

Getting back to the original question: Why are tabloid magazines so successful?  In the view of the ESWN blogger/translator, the key is to recognize that their primary audience are upper-middle class people with a lot of disposable income.  As such, the tabloid magazines are very attractive to advertisers (especially for restaurants, consumer electronic goods, travel, automobiles, etc).  The advertising revenue is ploughed back into the tabloid magazines themselves, thus allowing them to hire more paparazzis, score more scoops and get better production values (e.g. better presentation; better coverage of gourmet food, travel, automobiles, computers, consumer electronics, etc).  That will make them even more popular.

Conversely, if people really don't like reading these magazines, they would have gone out of business a long time ago.  The bottomline is that even though some people (such as the super-tycoons and the elite intellectuals) wish the tabloid magazines would disappear, the fact is that they exist because people like them.

The remaining part of Erica Yuen's blog post/column is about a typology of the so-called 'scandals' that are published in the tabloid magazines.  She comes up with three types:

For any published story, how do you know which is which?  Erica Yuen has a simple method: if the photographs are fuzzy zoomed shots, then this may be 'true material'; if the photographs are posed close-ups, then this may be "collaborative materials' or 'leaked materials.'  So not all tabloid news are the same.  You ought to try some critical thinking and see what the material really is.