Lazy Sunday afternoon evaporating for The Observer?

No-one is writing the obituary of The Observer yet but owner Guardian Media Group has made it clear it is looking at all options for its publishing operations and it won’t shy away from tough decisions.

Branwell Johnson

There are no sacred cows right now in newspaper publishing. The whole industry is wrestling with business models and rapid shifts in consumer behaviour driven by the pace of technical change.

The vision of a lazy Sunday, possibly hungover, flipping through all the papers and their respective supplements, is still appealing and hopefully still the weekend experience of many. But the increasingly bulky Saturday newspapers see their offerings last well into the next day while the web offers many other ways of engaging with lifestyle content and news.

The Observer also struggles because it is a standalone brand, unlike its quality rivals who carry through the branding of their weekday sister publications. It cannot benefit from any over-arching brand message or halo effect from The Guardian’s marketing, except when there is a cross-promotion.

Another problem for the quality Sundays is that they have no great web presence as their content is subsumed into their parent brands. News International is now preparing to launch a standalone Sunday Times website and its content and access model should be very interesting – is this where some form of paid-for content may appear?

The dusty shelves of newspaper limbo-land are laden with defunct national publications – many of which were published on Sunday, including News on Sunday and the Sunday Business.

It would be a surprise if The Observer joined them sooner than the beleaguered Independent on Sunday but it could be argued one is a business that has to justify a bottom line and maybe the other is a vanity project kept alive for influence (possibly even more so if Alexander Lebedev becomes involved).

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