Traditional British Pubs Face Death

british pub sign

.. and as Adam Edwards suggests in the Telegraph that implies the death of the UK.

The talk in my Cotswold local the other night was, as it is most nights now, about an uncertain future. We were conversing in our overcoats because the pub cannot afford to turn on the central heating during quiet weekdays – its future is the least certain of all.

By closing time yesterday, half-a-dozen local boozers somewhere in Britain – where doubtless parallel conversations to mine had taken place – had closed permanently. Thirty-six pubs are closing every week. More than half the villages of England are now “dry” for the first time since the Norman Conquest and sales of beer in the pubs that are surviving are at the lowest level since the Great Depression.

This week’s announcement in the pre-Budget report that the tax on beer will be increased above inflation next year and for the next three years is the latest kick in the head for a glorious British institution considerably older and rather more respected than the House of Commons.

That is not to say that there is not support in the highest places for the hub of the community.

Six years ago Prince Charles launched the �Pub is the Hub� campaign. It is meant to help what are seen as essential amenities in rural areas. Despite his best efforts many traditional community hubs have called last orders. As they close, the villages and towns lose part of their life and attraction. The rural pub is more than just a business, it is at the heart of many rural communities.

However as the Times has noted the middle classes and the middle-aged have abandoned pubs in droves. As Richard Morrison wrote:

Of all the perverse phenomena in this strange old country of ours, the death of the pub is one of the oddest. Here we are, drinking ourselves to mass liver failure, alcohol sales soaring, city centres heaving each Friday and Saturday with kids retching out their eight pints of lager, and the A&Es full of people who did stupid things while drunk, or who had stupid things done to them. It’s a pathological boozing culture that might have shocked Hogarth. So you would have thought that the pubs would be counting their profits by the billion.

In addition to the increasing taxes on beer, perhaps the Internet is changing how societies function.  Traditional media such as newspapers are having a hard time and that may be what is affecting the traditional British pub.  As Mitch Joel has remarked, the next generation spends a lot of time in the digital world.  As they game with their friends in cyberspace around the world, that does not leave much time to pop into the local pub.

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Internet Evolution or Revolution

The Internet is certainly an example of a disruptive technology.  In other words, the old rules no longer apply. It requires a new mindset.  Evolution is normally a much more continuous process: something one gradually gets used to, I assume.

internet evolution

That clearly was not  the thinking of the creators of a new website called Internet Evolution. (Tip of the hat to Mathew Ingram).  The title of this new website is: The Macrosite for News, Analysis, and Opinion about the Future of the Internet.

Its meta description (which is far too long) reads as follows:

The next big leap forward in the history of the Internet is happening now: Internet Evolution (www.internetevolution.com) is a Web 2.0 online publication dedicated to gauging the impact of the Internet on every aspect of life as we know it. A cornerstone of the site is the Thinkernet – an interactive forum where an invited assemblage of the Internet’s leading minds blog and exchange opinions, while interacting with our audience via message boards.

It certainly looks interesting and I have volunteered to be a site moderator, which should give a key vantage point to watch the revolution go by.

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Telecom CE0s Do Not Get Web 2.0

Web 2.0 requires an Internet mindset

George F. Colony of Forrester Research points out that CEOs have problems with Web 2.0 (free subscription required). As he said:

Imperious CEOs often have trouble with this one. They still see their company dictating pricing, product configurations, and service levels – a one-way street, with the company lording over subservient customers. The mentality is: “We’ll do what we want to do and the world will love it.” It’s this sort of logic that results in GM focusing on trucks (“Hey, it’s good for our profit!”) in an age of $3 gas, and Airbus building the A380 (“It’s bigger than the 747!”) when the hub-and-spoke airline topologies are crumbling. Customers are changing too fast, they have seemingly unlimited choice, and, to borrow a phrase, they want what they want.

The bigger and more powerful the company, the less likely it is to relate to Web 2.0. As Dawn Bushaus of Light Reading points out Web 2.0 is presenting the telecoms with a real identity crisis.

.. and what exactly is Web 2.0. It’s a phrase that everyone bandies around without really being sure what is implied. It is used by the technologists to define websites that have much greater interactivity. So visitors can interact with websites and vote on items or leave comments. It’s what is called user generated content (UGC). You’ll see it on such popular sites as youTube or Facebook. How could such websites create any problems for powerful companies?

The real answer is that it isn’t really Web 2.0 that is creating the problem. Web 1.0 (whatever that may have been) created the same challenges and Web 3.0 and Web 4.0, if they come along, will perpetuate the problems for powerful companies.

What is creating the difficulties is just the Internet itself. Web 2.0 is only a small fraction of that. The Internet could be called a disruptive technology in that it changes the way societies and economies function. It levels many playing fields. Buyers are much more in control. Individuals can now express opinions and can easily come together in groups to give weight to those opinions. Unless you adopt an Internet mindset, you will be in for many surprises. The old-style power brokers who have not adopted this new mindset will find that their old traditional methods are very much less effective or even counterproductive.

The really successful major corporations are already seeing the writing on the wall. Wal-Mart for example made some mistakes initially but has now clearly adopted an Internet mindset. Unfortunately the telecoms in general still assume the world goes on as before. Just check out the crowdsourcing project run by Roberto Rocha entitled Your Call Is Important To Us for confirmation of what you know so well.

A further graphic example of how the telecoms still feel power works in the old way turned up in a Gazette article last week by the same Roberto Rocha. Telecom complaints body comes under fire. This all relates to the Commission for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.

The ombudsman-like body, whose mission is to resolve conflicts between consumers and telecom companies, surprised interest groups when it materialized without warning last month. The Commission was spawned from the government’s decision to deregulate telephone companies in markets where there are at least three competitors, thus letting market forces set prices and product offerings.

The critics, and there are many, feel that although the office is long overdue, it should not have been created by industry players themselves without prior consultation. The suggested mechanics are of course those the telecoms would prefer. That might have worked in the old days. However without an Internet mindset, they may well produce a final outcome, which is worse than they could have achieved by communication and involvement of the other relevant parties.

Related:
Customer Service From Telecommunications Companies
CEOs Should Get Out More

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The Internet Threat

Strategic planning should be a key priority for any business. Choosing an effective business strategy will maximise the probability that corporate goals will be achieved.

SWOT analysis, looking at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, is a process that more and more companies are using to test whether they have adopted the strongest strategy available to them.

Strengths and Weaknesses versus the key competitors is an obvious questioning process that forces harsh reality on starry-eyed entrepreneurs. Opportunities created by the evolving changes in economies and societies is an up-beat topic and requires more insightful thinking. Finally threats are perhaps the most psychologically difficult factor for an optimistic businessperson to handle. It requires a friendly Devil’s Advocate or perhaps one of those De Bono black hats to get into a pessimistic frame of mind.

These dark thoughts came to mind on seeing yesterday’s Montreal Gazette business headline “Newsprint Sales Dive Disastrously‘. Robert Gibbens notes that US consumption of newsprint is now running 25 per cent below the 2000 level. The article mentions the excess capacity both in the West and in China. However there is no mention of why this is happening. Post 9/11 recession is mentioned as one factor. However there is silence about the biggest threat. That is of course the Internet.

The Internet is dramatically changing the way things are done. For some businesses it brings glorious opportunities. However for others it is a life-threatening factor. For the last two or three years, newspaper publishers have been laying off journalists. People are turning more and more to the Internet to get their news and commentaries. Clearly less journalists means less column-inches and thus less newsprint to display those column-inches. Hopefully those newspaper proprietors are doing their SWOT analysis.

If they think the Internet has been a threat already, they’ve not seen anything yet. The Mobile Internet gives people information whenever and wherever they need it. The Mobile Internet is growing much faster than the traditional Internet. The traditional Internet has already sliced away a disastrous part of their livelihood. The worst is yet to come.

Related:
The Internet – Evolution or Revolution
Online Grows, Offline Shrinks

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