The semi-clad girls gracing the cover of Super Notícia, the Brazilian tabloid newspaper, are considerably more glamorous than its grimy headquarters in an industrial suburb of Belo Horizonte.

The paper’s figures are similarly eye-catching – in May it sold an average of 293,178 copies a day. Belo Horizonte is in a city of just over 2m people, in a country where 17 per cent of the 187m population are classified by the United Nations as “functionally illiterate”.

May was the fourth month in the past two years that Super Notícia outsold Folha São Paulo, its national broadsheet rival.

The labourers, cleaners, taxi drivers and maids that make up the paper’s readership lap up its zingy mix of news, gossip, football and crime. “Super created a new public that had never read a journal before,” says Lúcia Castro, editor in chief. “It is a phenomenon for the city. Everybody reads it.”

Super Notícia is at the vanguard of Brazil’s tabloid revolution. Five years ago, the country’s tabloids sold just 400,000 copies day. Today, they sell 1,500,000. São Paulo, the capital, has several, including two free dailies. Sales of Extra, another tabloid, have grown by 17.96 per cent in the past year to 284,892 copies daily.

The broader crisis in the newspaper industry has hurt broadsheets such as Estado de São Paulo, Brazil’s second-biggest paper, which lost 17.89 per cent of sales last year, or Folha, which shed 5.02 per cent.

But Super Notícia only shed 0.87 per cent of sales last year. Indeed, publishers Sempre Editora are spending €10m ($14m) on a new printing press that will almost double the daily print run to 600,000. “We are a company that believes in the future of the printed press,” says Teodomiro Braga, executive director.

In almost a decade of economic boom, a new urban lower middle class has grown up in Brazil. ‘Class C’ now makes up 50 per cent of the population, or 90m Brazilians. Comparisons have been made with 19th century Britain, when the first tabloids appeared to serve the working class.

Like many red tops, Super Notícia chases readers with promotions. It offered discount tokens for books by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho and 260,000 copies were sold.

The paper is holding on to these readers. It costs just 25 centavos. “It talks the language of the people,” says one reader. “And everybody’s got 25 centavos.”

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