This thesis comprises a cross-national comparison of readership responses to the British tabloid The Sun and the German red-top Bild. The study is of qualitative nature: it draws on extensive material derived from a total of 18 focus groups conducted in both
countries, in which 104 diverse adults participated.
The first study to compare tabloid reading experience cross-nationally, the research sets out to explore how readers of The Sun and readers of Bild make sense of the papers, and how they evaluate them. The results are analysed with regards to emerging
similarities and differences, which are pointed out and discussed in relation to the specific social and cultural contexts in the UK and Germany.
While many academic approaches to genre consider popular newspapers hazardous to the workings of democratic society; this study takes a different approach. Drawing on a range of academic ideas that can largely be associated to the intellectual tradition of ‘cultural studies’, the research foregrounds the social and cultural functions of the popular press from the readers’ point of view; focussing in particular on notions of belonging and community as expressed in the construction of citizenship, social
participation and collective identity formations.
Among the key results of the study, cross-nationally shared modes of engagement with tabloids are highlighted, which contribute to an often tension-filled character of the reading experience. Moreover, the papers’ highly stimulating potential is stressed. I develop my idea of the ‘negotiative space’ generated by tabloids; arguing that this greatly contributes to readers’ development of their ‘vision of the good and bad’. Moreover, the thesis emphasises the significance of the popular press to various kinds of readers’ social and cultural identity formations; particularly with regards to notions of nationhood and national identity.