Guardian / Observer Advert: Shed’s On Fire

A kinda-broadsheet newspaper. A hard sell, you might think , and you’d probably be right given the parlous state of print journalism these days. The Graun is reputed to lose money at a rate unrivalled by all except the sort of people who have Ladbrokes apps on their mobile phones (a hundred grand a day at last count) so whenever there’s a relaunch I always wonder whether it amounts to a last roll of the dice.

TV adverts have become fairly uncommon for daily newspapers these days, given that they’re so ominpresent across the web, which is another reason to scrutinise what’s going on here. I suspect that weekend newspapers offer media groups a particularly lucrative avenue these days, given that the arse has fallen out of online revenues and most of Guardian Media Group’s cross-media efforts (mags; local papers; radio stations; television; Red, Green and Blue – the pornographic magazine for middle-class lentil-eating masturbators) have largely been sold off or closed.

I’d guess that a full-page ad in either paper could net up to £25K and the potential for double-whammy weekend blitz could net a million or so quid. Not bad. But the costs of good print journalism are non-negotiable. Good journos, lawyers, sales, snappers, subs, designers, printers, paper, printing presses, distribution. Not to mention the endless cocaine.

I had slight return to print recently and, while very satisfying, it didn’t really stack up financially. Despite something of a rediscovered fondness for print that I detect in people, I don’t think they’re prepared to pay for something if they perceive a free alternative somewhere else, even if it’s inferior. That should mean an increased focus on good writing and design – something I’m not convinced either The Guardian or Observer has got right in the last few years (and sadly now without the benefit of Simon Hoggart).

As a result my expectations for the medium’s long-term future are realistic. On the other hand, while online wasn’t quite the golden egg everyone expected it’s not going anywhere. A newspaper website without a newspapers? I wouldn’t put it past the Guardian, which has always liked to be a bit different and has been bulking up its online offering for years. So, is this Rusbridger’s last stand?

Perhaps I’m seeing patterns where none exist, but there’s a pleasing ‘give-a-fuck’ ambiance to this ad, highlighting the relaunched weekend edition with more cool stuff to do – at least 70 per cent of which I expect to be in London. I also expect Ottolenghi entreating readers to try some lentil doughnuts, Stuart Lee to write one of his bafflingly unfunny columns, one of the Wimmin brigade to write something gratuitously offensive to men, some appalling car reviews (seriously, Guardian, either get me in to do them or quit it with the motoring stuff) and Jacques Peretti to write another column on how he’s too old to go clubbing, but that’s kinda the joy of papers. There’s always something else overleaf.

I like this ad. It kinda sums up everything we hope for in a newspaper. It’s aspirational; it promises fun, adventure, expanded horizons; it suggests that there’s more than enough for a weekend’s leisure and play in there – and more besides. There’s the kind of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail that’s becoming more popular in adverts and trailers and even a Breaking Bad reference in there.

I’m not sure about the suggestion that purchasing these papers might actually drive you insane, though. That’s what we have The Daily Mail for isn’t it?