The Observer Magazine
Covid continued to dominate the news in 2021. We tackled it head-on, and sideways. In March 2021, we asked if the virus had forever killed off the handshake; and in July we leashed together a waggy-tailed special to celebrate the explosion of pandemic pooches. More recently, our main features have asked why Gen Z is turning away from the 9 to 5 in favour of side-hustles; and whether smart-phones are destroying human memory. Our interviews regularly set the news agenda. Ian McKellen told us he wished he could talk to his mother ‘about the people I’ve loved’. Kate Winslet disclosed her strange lockdown habits. Rylan Clark revealed his breakdown. We’ve teased out the essence of Nicole Kidman, Billy Connolly, Keanu Reeves, Ozzy Osbourne and Floella Benjamin, among many others, and in one uproarious interview Miriam Margolyes made a declaration that could be a mantra for our features meetings: “Money and sex and religion and politics. That's what people should be talking about.” As well as our main features, we’ve continued to provide outstanding coverage of fashion, beauty, interiors, gardening; and award-winning food writing from our adored columnists, Nigel Slater and Jay Rayner. Philippa Perry completed her first year since joining as our agony aunt. Her candid, professional therapist’s take on highly personal dilemmas regularly attracts more than 1m page views. “It is not my aim to look clever at your expense,” she told readers when she started. “My goal is to understand and help you get unstuck.” The positive response from readers online, in terms of page views and retention, has been thrilling. How to measure success? As we emerged from the endless stop/start of Covid, our relationship with readers has been exceptionally close and two-way. Revenue and pagination projections far exceeded the doomy projections of the pandemic. Our stories are regularly in the top 10 most-read on theguardian.com every Sunday. 31 July 2022: Got the ick? For the cover, we commissioned a highly saturated photo of a gorgeous cake. At first glance, so what? But we know our readers are curious. They’ll look closely. And they’ll notice a fly feasting and feel a sudden rush of “ick” – the subject of the story, a zeitgeisty take on that moment when disgust can ruin a relationship. 7 August 2022: Our feature on The New Naturists provided a revealing sense of why nudism is more popular than ever, with beautifully crafted, humorous photography from Pal Hansen. 28th August 2022: Tom Lamont wrote a sparky interview with Ozzy Osbourne that revealed the rock legend’s plans to return to the UK from California (“Everything’s fucking ridiculous there… It’s time for me to come home”). Pictures of the grizzled rocker enjoying silver-service tea wittily underscored that storyline.