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Tabloids have up to twice as many negative headlines as positive - study

A study of five Irish tabloids over a two-week period shows a distinct preference for negative headlines on stories.

Image: NS Newsflash via Flickr

A STUDY of Irish tabloid newspapers has shown that some titles carry twice as many negative headlines as positive ones.

A study of headlines taken from five papers over two weeks, carried out by business author Kevin Kelly, said four daily tabloids carried significantly more negatively-toned headlines than positive ones.

The Irish Daily Mail had the largest proportion of negative headlines, with 109 negatives ones compared to 54 with positive tones, and 19 neutral headlines. The Irish Sun was next with 85 negative headlines, 58 positive ones and 30 neutral ones.

The Irish Daily Mirror carried 92 negative headlines compared to 62 positive ones with 18 neutral in tone, while the Irish Daily Star had 110 negative headlines compared to 79 more positive-leaning ones with 25 neutral in tone.

The Irish Independent, which was included in the study because of its compact edition, was also measured – and carried 95 positive headlines, with 66 negative ones and 23 neutral ones.

Other broadsheet newspapers were similarly analysed for a week, but study of them was dropped when it became apparent that the majority of their headlines were neutral in tone.

The study omitted accompanying sub-headlines and pictures, parsing only the headlines themselves, from the first 11 pages of each paper for two weeks.

Kelly argued that the impact of imbalanced headlines had an ultimate impact on consumer confidence, which then filtered into reduced spending.

“This of course has a knock-on effect on advertising spending,” Kelly said. “Ironically, tabloid newspapers are becoming the authors of their own demise.”

Kelly, who has previously worked as a pollster, said negativity was not the preserve of newspapers but was also pervasive in other media sources including TV, radio and the internet.

“This is a challenge for all media. If it was possible to do a study on radio programmes, and so on, I would get the same findings.

“I want people to look in the mirror – I do think we need to up our game. If you walk away from the traditional leadership models, I think media can fill that.”

Read: Kevin Kelly’s headline analysis in full (PDF) >

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Gavan Reilly

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