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Recently-departed Observer editor Roger Alton has penned his own postscript in today’s Guardian, accepting Sunday newspapers are unlikely to thrive online as separate entities from their daily stablemates. Alton quit after a decade at the paper in October amid the looming further integration of the two titles – a month after Sunday Telegraph editor Patience Wheatcroft quit over similar issues (Guardian/Observer staff have now agreed to the plan and Telegraph business journalists are now working across the daily, Sunday and website).
Alton now offers a look back with a degree of realism, accepting that “there is no such thing as a separate Sunday newspaper brand online (because) all are part of their parent website”. Can a publisher run a thriving Sunday site? “Yes but it won’t make you rich.” Can both daily and Sunday brands be nurtured online? “Probably not”.
His parting shot, however, blames not the weekly publishing schedule but the financial reality for the demotion of Sundays online: “It is perfectly possible to run a website where most new content appears weekly … The biggest obstacle to Sunday papers having successful web editions is not their leisurely publishing schedule, it is the fact that they compete for investment with their own daily partners.” While weeklies like The Economist and Time can succeed, those affiliated to daily papers can thrive “only if money is no object”, he concedes.