There’s lots of reasons why this is interesting. Here’s just three:
1. The Observer is the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, and the people who work on it understand the particular rhythms of a Sunday better than just about anyone (the Observer is also the sister paper of the Guardian, and its web presence, like the Guardian’s, is part of Guardian Unlimited.
So it’s really interesting that they’ve focussed on a blog as a means of maintaining connections with their audience all week long. It’s also interesting that they’ve really put their personnel where their mouth is. The blog’s being edited by an ultra-smart cookie, Observer web editor Rafael Behr, and the first day saw posts from executive editor Kamal Ahmed (who posted about developments between deadlines) and Nick Cohen, who has some claim to being Britain’s top polemical writer. If they keep that up, the blog really will be essential reading for anyone who wants to get under the bonnet of the Observer machine.
2. To build the blog, we decided to get some tagtastic juice from the Regent of RSS himself, Ben Hammersley. Ben’s done all the development work on the blog, and we’ve agreed with him that most of the source code he’s produced will be made available as open source. There’s a “folksonomic zeitgeist” widget on there which is particularly interesting. Ben’s been working directly with Rafael and GU’s assistant editor Neil McIntosh.
3. We really rethought the design of the blog, starting from first principles and designing it as a blog in its own right rather than a section within Guardian Unlimited. The headlines in there are using sIFR technology, which is a new departure for us, and there’s also got a new ad format which we’re trying out. And, of course, every time we put something out which allows users to comment, we learn something new.
Oh, and just for good measure, we’ve got our first Podcast on there, too. From John Naughton, no less. In for a penny, in for a pound.
So it’s an exciting development for us. It’ll be fun watching the new baby as it makes its way in the world.