Sunday newspaper The Observer is set to relaunch this week with a greater focus on news analysis as well as culture and lifestyle.
The slimmed-down four-section paper will drop its separate Escape, Cash and Business sections. Instead, it will contain four sections: an expanded main newspaper, a Berliner-size New Review supplement, Sport, and Observer Magazine. The New Review will continue to focus on arts and culture with increased coverage of film, music, architecture and books. A new Discover section within the review will be devoted to science, nature and technology. Observer Magazine will cover food, fashion, relationships, gardening, ethical living and travel.
The main news section will include a new round-up of the week's news, called The Week, and the Focus section will be expanded for more news analysis and international affairs. Sport will be expanded as well. Three of its four monthly magazine supplements, Observer Sport Monthly, Observer Music Monthly and Observer Woman have ceased publication. Observer Food Monthly will continue to be published.
The paper, sister paper of The Guardian, is launching its new format with an exclusive serialisation of Andrew Rawnsley's new book on the Labour party in government called The End of the Party. These excerpts, however, will not appear online at midnight on Sunday morning with the rest of the paper, and will instead be released at an unspecified later stage.
Observer editor John Mulholland explained this decision to Press Gazette. "We've paid good money," he said. "I think it's reasonable in this particular case to say you might need to actually leave the house and buy the paper to avail yourself instantly on Sunday morning of the kind of work and effort that Andrew's put into that book."
Editor-in-chief of The Guardian and The Observer Alan Rusbridger recently outlined his commitment to the free dissemination of online news. Mulholland told Press Gazette: "We're all as a company committed to the kind of philosophy of openness and engaged mutualisation that Alan outlined at the Cudlipp lecture. But there are parts of what we do on a Saturday and Sunday which are not core to that kind of philosophy."
A Guardian News and Media review last summer considered closing the Observer to cut costs, in light of the company's 08/09 operating loss of £36.8 million. The National Union of Journalists and Press Gazette led a campaign to save the paper.
Writing in The Guardian, Mulholland highlighted the transformations in the newspaper industry. "The paper's new incarnation came out of a series of rigorous discussions that looked at the role of a Sunday paper in an age when newspapers have radically changed and in an age of digital revolution. What is the proper role of a Sunday paper in that changed environment?" he asked.
"There is a role for a Sunday paper that offers increased reflection, discursiveness and analysis. But it also has to offer engagement, passion and a commitment to highlighting issues in line with the founding principles of the paper."
He also highlighted the 219-year history of the newspaper. "The paper that appears next Sunday will be substantially changed from the first edition of the Observer on 4 December 1791," he wrote. "But we will also have a great deal in common. That first edition set out its blueprint for Sunday journalism as one intended to "apply the strictest attention and care to greater objects of general concern", but also promised to report on "the fine Arts,Âemanations (sic) of Science, the Tragic and the Comic Muse, the National Police, Âfashion and fashionable follies". It still holds true."
This is a considerable legacy indeed, and regular readers will be expecting the redesign to live up to it.