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The Observer
The Observer front page on 21 January 2018
TypeSunday newspaper (If Christmas Day falls on Sunday instead of a normal edition a special Christmas edition would be published on Saturday which is Christmas Eve)
FormatOriginally broadsheet, Berliner (2006–2018),
Compact (since 2018)[1]
Owner(s)Guardian Media Group
EditorPaul Webster
Founded4 December 1791; 232 years ago (1791-12-04)
Political alignmentCentre-left[2]
British republicanism[3]
HeadquartersKings Place, 90 York Way, London
Circulation136,656 (as of July 2021)[4]
Sister newspapersThe Guardian,
The Guardian Weekly
OCLC number50230244 Edit this at Wikidata
The Observer (International Edition)
OCLC number436604553

The Observer is a British newspaper published on Sundays. It is a sister paper to The Guardian and The Guardian Weekly, having been acquired by their parent company, Guardian Media Group Limited, in 1993. First published in 1791, it is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.[5]



The first issue, published on 4 December 1791 by W.S. Bourne, was the world's first Sunday newspaper.[6] Believing that the paper would be a means of wealth, Bourne instead soon found himself facing debts of nearly £1,600. Though early editions purported editorial independence, Bourne attempted to cut his losses and sell the title to the government. When this failed, Bourne's brother (a wealthy businessman) made an offer to the government, which also refused to buy the paper but agreed to subsidise it in return for influence over its editorial content. As a result, the paper soon took a strong line against radicals such as Thomas Paine, Francis Burdett and Joseph Priestley.[citation needed]

19th century

In 1807, the brothers decided to relinquish editorial control, naming Lewis Doxat as the new editor. Seven years later, the brothers sold The Observer to William Innell Clement, a newspaper proprietor who owned a number of publications. The paper continued to receive government subsidies during this period; in 1819, of the approximately 23,000 copies of the paper distributed weekly, approximately 10,000 were given away as "specimen copies", distributed by postmen who were paid to deliver them to "lawyers, doctors, and gentlemen of the town."[7]

Clement maintained ownership of The Observer until his death in 1852.[citation needed] After Doxat retired in 1857, Clement's heirs sold the paper to Joseph Snowe, who also took over the editor's chair.[citation needed]

In 1870, wealthy businessman Julius Beer bought the paper and appointed Edward Dicey as editor, whose efforts succeeded in reviving circulation. Though Beer's son Frederick became the owner upon Julius's death in 1880, he had little interest in the newspaper and was content to leave Dicey as editor until 1889.[citation needed] Henry Duff Traill took over the editorship after Dicey's departure, only to be replaced in 1891 by Frederick's wife, Rachel Beer,[6] of the Sassoon family. She remained as editor for thirteen years, combining it in 1893 with the editorship of The Sunday Times, a newspaper that she had also bought.[8]

20th century

Upon Frederick's death in 1903, the paper was purchased by the newspaper magnate Lord Northcliffe. Northcliffe sold the paper to William Waldorf Astor in 1911, who transferred ownership to his son Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor four years later. Garvin's departed as editor in 1942.[citation needed]

Ownership passed to Waldorf's sons in 1948, with David taking over as editor. He remained in the position for 27 years, during which time he turned it into a trust-owned newspaper employing, among others, George Orwell, Paul Jennings and C. A. Lejeune. In 1977, the Astors sold the ailing newspaper to US oil giant Atlantic Richfield (now called ARCO) who sold it to Lonrho plc in 1981.[citation needed]

It became part of the Guardian Media Group in June 1993, after a rival acquisition bid by The Independent was rejected.[9]

Farzad Bazoft, a journalist for The Observer, was executed in Iraq in 1990 on charges of spying. In 2003, The Observer interviewed the Iraqi colonel who had arrested and interrogated Bazoft and who was convinced that Bazoft was not a spy.[10]

21st century

On 27 February 2005, The Observer Blog[11] was launched. In addition to the weekly Observer Magazine colour supplement which is still present every Sunday, for several years each issue of The Observer came with a different free monthly magazine. These magazines had the titles Observer Sport Monthly, Observer Music Monthly, Observer Woman and Observer Food Monthly.

Content from The Observer is included in The Guardian Weekly for an international readership.

The Observer followed its daily partner The Guardian and converted to Berliner format on Sunday 8 January 2006.[12][13]

The Observer was awarded the National Newspaper of the Year at the British Press Awards 2007.[14] Editor Roger Alton stepped down at the end of 2007, and was replaced by his deputy, John Mulholland.[15]

In early 2010, the paper was restyled. An article on the paper's website previewing the new version stated that "The News section, which will incorporate Business and personal finance, will be home to a new section, Seven Days, offering a complete round-up of the previous week's main news from Britain and around the world, and will also focus on more analysis and comment."[16]

In July 2021, Ofcom announced that The Guardian continued to be the UK's most widely used newspaper website and app for news and had increased its audience share by 1% over the preceding year. 23% of consumers, who used websites or apps for news, used The Guardian, which also hosts The Observer online content.[when?] This compared to 22% for the Daily Mail website.[17]

Supplements and features

After the paper was rejuvenated in early 2010, the main paper came with only a small number of supplements – Sport, The Observer Magazine, The New Review and The New York Times International Weekly, an 8-page supplement of articles selected from The New York Times that has been distributed with the paper since 2007. Every four weeks the paper includes The Observer Food Monthly magazine, and in September 2013 it launched Observer Tech Monthly,[18] a science and technology section which won the Grand Prix at the 2014 Newspaper Awards.[19]

Previously, the main paper had come with a larger range of supplements including Sport, Business & Media, Review, Escape (a travel supplement), The Observer Magazine and various special interest monthlies, such as The Observer Food Monthly, Observer Women monthly which was launched in 2006,[20] Observer Sport Monthly and The Observer Film Magazine.

The Newsroom

The Observer and its sister newspaper The Guardian operate a visitor centre in London called The Newsroom. It contains their archives, including bound copies of old editions, a photographic library and other items such as diaries, letters and notebooks. This material may be consulted by members of the public. The Newsroom also mounts temporary exhibitions and runs an educational programme for schools.[citation needed]

In November 2007, The Observer and The Guardian made their archives available over the Internet.[21] The current extent of the archives available are 1791 to 2000 for The Observer and 1821 to 2000 for The Guardian. They will eventually go up to 2003. In 2023, copies from 2004 onwards and gaps were to be filled to latest edition.[citation needed]


The paper was banned in Egypt in February 2008 for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed.[22]




The Observer was named the British Press Awards National Newspaper of the Year for 2006.[25] Its supplements have three times won "Regular Supplement of the Year" (Sport Monthly, 2001; Food Monthly, 2006, 2012).[25]

Observer journalists have won a range of British Press Awards, including[25]

See also


  1. ^ Graham Snowdon, "Inside the 19 January edition", The Guardian Weekly, 16 January 2018 (page visited on 19 January 2018).
  2. ^ Matt Wells (15 October 2004). "World writes to undecided voters". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 13 July 2008.
  3. ^ Katwala, Sunder (7 February 2012). "The monarchy is more secure than ever". The New Statesman. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  4. ^ Tobitt, Charlotte; Majid, Aisha (25 January 2023). "National press ABCs: December distribution dive for freesheets Standard and City AM". Press Gazette. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  5. ^ "The Observer under review". BBC News. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
  6. ^ a b c "History of the Observer". The Guardian. 6 June 2002.
  7. ^ Dennis Griffiths (ed.), The Encyclopedia of the British Press, 1422–1992, London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, p. 159.
  8. ^ "Ad Info – Observer History". 17 September 2009. Archived from the original on 17 September 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. ^ Leapman, Michael (15 May 1993). "New editor chosen for 'Observer': 'Guardian' deputy to succeed Trelford". The Independent. Retrieved 22 October 2023.
  10. ^ Vulliamy, Ed (18 May 2003). "Writer hanged by Iraq 'no spy'". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2023.
  11. ^ Observer blog, accessed 27 February 2007.
  12. ^ Claire Cozens, "Observer announces relaunch date", The Observer, 19 December 2005; accessed 27 February 2007.
  13. ^ The archive – summary of holdings, accessed 27 February 2007.
  14. ^ Ltd, Magstar. "Press Awards". Archived from the original on 2 April 2016.
  15. ^ Stephen Brook (3 January 2008). "Mulholland reshapes Observer team". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 17 February 2008.
  16. ^ John Mulholland, "Welcome to the new Observer",, 21 February 2010.
  17. ^ Gayle, Damien (28 July 2021). "Guardian most widely used newspaper website and app for news, says Ofcom". The Guardian.
  18. ^ Gavriel Hollander (27 August 2003). "Observer to launch new monthly technology supplement". Press Gazette. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Observer wins top prize at 2014 Newspaper Awards". The Guardian. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  20. ^ "New editor at the FINANCIAL TIMES" (PDF). Press Business (1). February 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  21. ^ "How to access past articles from the Guardian and Observer archive". The Guardian. 15 November 2017.
  22. ^ "Der Spiegel issue on Islam banned in Egypt". France24. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  23. ^ "Paul Webster appointed new editor of The Observer". The Guardian (Press release). 18 January 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  24. ^ Greg Whitmore (3 November 2019). "Stuart Heydinger obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 November 2019 – via
  25. ^ a b c Press Gazette, Roll of Honour, accessed 24 July 2011. Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.