Online business models need to work in reality - Monocolumn | Monocle


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21 September 2012

Over the last few months, I’ve assumed the unexpected title of Monocle’s convention correspondent. If there’s coffee in paper cups, a lukewarm buffet lunch and a PowerPoint presentation – I’m probably there.

This September I’ve gone to two of these: first, the World Newspaper Congress in Kiev, the second: the World Retail Congress in London. One aims to coax people off the internet and get them reading printed newspapers, the other aims to coax people off the internet and get them back into large-scale retail stores. I’m simplifying but that’s pretty much it.

You can’t help noticing how similar the two industries’ problems are. Both are trying to wrangle back consumers from some web-geek who offers a nearly identical product for next to nothing. But it’s hard to have much sympathy. The majority of publishing and retail puts its hope (and money) in technological fixes that don’t come close the re-establishing why people ever found them appealing in the first place.

So I thought I’d write a message to both of these industries to help get them back on track. It’s not really directed at any CEOs or editors – it’s more of an abstract thing. Just go with it.

Dear Retail,
We don’t like touch-pads. Stop putting them everywhere. I miss the times when you were nice. What happened to all those friendly people who used to make me want to visit you. Sure, sometimes they used to try and talk to me too much but they were great. I don’t know where you got them but I’m not a big fan of the new robo-staff you’ve invested in. I’ve checked: there’s no unexpected item in the bagging area. Get rid of them. That said, I like some of your new websites – but probably in ways you don’t even realise. It’s where I go after I’ve been into one of your stores and touched, felt and smelled what I want. Keep that in mind.
Kind regards,

Dear Publishing,
I love you but you’re breaking my heart. When did you get so cheap? Stop giving yourself away for free. I know things have changed but you need to keep your nerve. I’m totally fine if you want to take things slow. I can go to the internet for my breaking news kicks. Money’s tight, I know. But you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t spend a little on the reason that people still like you – namely, good stories. Also, I don’t know how to tell you this but you’re looking a little old. Don’t be scared to let a few younger folks through your doors to shake things up. One last thing – stop talking about Kate Middleton. It’s weird.


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