After foolishly deciding not to close the title last year, Guardian Group today (Sunday 21st Feb 2010) relaunches The Observer using television as its main medium. You can catch the commercial at Campaignlive if you’re interested. It’s by slick US agency Wieden & Kennedy, and has a go at media-info clutter….to which it’s adding via this relaunch.
Commercially, until the Big O divests itself of Fabian Socialist mores it won’t ever have a role in the modern world. But we’re invited to ‘Pause, Review, Reflect’ in this relaunch – and see the paper in a new light….just like Gordon wants us to ‘Take a Second Look’ at him.
The PRR idea was brought into a contemporary context by the Observer’s editor John Mulholland, who was given a three-column freebie by sister paper The Guardian last Monday. He said the new-look title would be ‘enlightened by the spirit of 1791′, which was of course only 209 years ago.
‘The idea of liberalism – the ventilation of diverse opinions and a tolerance of same – took root at this time’ wrote Mulholland, ‘ these beliefs are still at the centre of the paper’.
The problem with his claim is that it breaks the Page One dictate of great publicity: say something that’s true, even if only in an emotional sense. The Observer’s circulation had tumbled 16% in the months preceding the relaunch. What puts most people off it these days is the title’s desperate grasp of any cosy explanation of the socio-economic and cultural mess we’re in – and lack of any grip at all on reality. This is especially typified by the views of economist Will Hutton, a diehard collectivist whose entirely accurate prediction of the banking disaster seems to have gone to his head. Or brain, I’m not sure which.
The new-look paper (Mulholland continued) would offer ‘more analysis, more reflection, more debate and more discursiveness….and crucially offer different voices and opinions’. So the strategy is spot-on – print more meaning and less news – for an offline title in an online age. But surely the next question must be, ‘Ah, so you’re going to be a weekly magazine, then?’
If I did anything with The Observer, that’s precisely what I’d do. But I doubt if it would be anywhere near commercially viable (at least not on current staffing levels); and before approaching even that hurdle, the big task would be to deliver diversity that really reads like diversity to the objective triallist.
I’ll retain an open mind, and keep an eye on the first few issues.