THE OBSERVER: AN EXPERT’S VIEW - It will take more than a bit of bulk to revive this title’s sales, Colin Gottlieb writes

It seems everything puts on weight at this time of year. And The Observer is no exception. The year was only three days old when the paper unveiled its bulkier new look, comprising eight sections, three of which are entirely new.

It seems everything puts on weight at this time of year. And The

Observer is no exception. The year was only three days old when the

paper unveiled its bulkier new look, comprising eight sections, three of

which are entirely new.



We now have Escape, Screen and Cash to sit alongside Comment, Sport,

Business, Review and Life.



Sadly, The Observer has been unable to stop its sales decline. Even

under the stewardship of those wizards at The Guardian, the paper has

shed 13 per cent of its circulation in the past three years. Indeed,

November’s sales dipped under the 400,000 mark.



So will the new sections make a difference? I don’t think so.



Printed on newsprint, they look like any other supplement. Screen isn’t

a patch on The Sunday Times’s Culture and Cash looks pale in comparison

with its nearest rivals. If you are going to produce something new and

competitive, why not have it stitched, trimmed and printed on decent

stock?



Existing readers may value the extra bulk but it’s unlikely there will

be any sales effect in the long term from occasional Observer readers

buying it more often.



We estimate it will cost The Observer more than pounds 50,000 a week to

produce these extra sections - not including the cost of inserting them.

I would much rather The Observer put most of the money back into the

existing product and the rest on more marketing.



The Guardian is a superb paper produced by a hugely talented team. Yet

still too many Guardian readers do not buy The Observer and,

unfortunately, these extra sections will not change that.



Perhaps the seven-day Guardian is not far away. Now that would add some

serious weight to the quality Sunday market.



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