Its founder, W S Bourne, believed the paper would earn him money but rapidly ran up substantial debts. As a result, the editorial independence of the first few issues were soon lost, as the government agreed to pay subsidies in return for influence over content. This arrangement continued for at least two decades.
The Observer‘s political stance has varied over much of its history, not necessarily in line with its owners’ wishes. Over the 19th century it became steadily more liberal, switching to an independent Conservative stance under editor James Louis Garvin. On Garvin’s departure in 1942 it declared itself non-partisan.
It became part of the Guardian Media Group in 1993 after many years of being the only quality Sunday paper which wasn’t simply the Sunday edition of a daily. But it still has its own distinctive feel – it isn’t just a Sunday Guardian. Its political stance, though still left-of-centre as you’d expect, tends to be a little to the right of its sister paper – for instance, it supported British participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.
The Observer converted to “Berliner” format (tabloid width, but taller pages) in January 2006.
In 2009 there was a well-publicised campaign to “Save The Observer“, in the face of widespread rumours that it was about to be closed by the Guardian Media Group in favour of a “Sunday Guardian” to cut the group’s losses.
In line with GMG’s “web first” policy, The Observer‘s available in several different online formats, including apps for Kindle, iPhone, iPad and Nokia and Android smartphones as well as the mobile site. However, they’re all ultimately part of The Guardian‘s website. Likewise, it has no social media presence of its own.
(It also had a short-lived blog from 2005 to 2006, making it the first British newspaper to document its workings online. As The Guardian now has over 60 blogs, it’s perhaps not surprising that The Observer‘s was overwhelmed.)