Fifty years ago there was something of a consensus that Australian newspapers were more notable for their similarities than for their differences. Over the next decade or two this consensus broke down. Suddenly, media researchers were embracing two-tier, three-tier, even four-tier models of the press. This paper documents this change. It tracks the origin and application in Australia of ‘tabloid’ as an analytical construct in relation to the press. And it looks at claims about differences and similarities in the Australian press, over time, not by importing an essentialised idea of ‘real’ tabloids, but by reviewing evidence and argument about the style of newspapers, their content, and the social composition of their audiences.