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
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.