IT Services

CNet in Print and the Old Economy's Revival

The consensus of wisdom has it that business has become an increasingly digital-centric affair and we use ICT and internet tools to automate, streamline, reach further, market more precisely, increase sales and measure progress. And of course all this is true and very good but what is less well recognised is that the pendulum might, in some niche ways, be swinging back to older, non-binary virtues.

Take for example the media and the news today that online tech publishing giant CNet is starting a print magazine. It might seem counterintuitive but not to those who use their eyes and ears to judge what’s going on. While it’s indisputable that the web has put a spanner in the printing works and newspapers, just witness the groaning magazine shelves of your local newsagent. And note in particular the survival and even prospering of the circa £5 glossies: ‘Dad Rock’ bibles like Mojo, Q and Uncut; fashion titles; hotspots like cycling and travel. A judicious combination of cover-mounts and high-end advertising targets mean that the mags still appeal. At the other end of the scale, giveaway newspapers and cheap TV guides and gossip rags are thriving; to modify the well-known phrase, free/under-a-quid is a compelling price. Or look at books where boutique imprints are creating a luxury category for people who crave the tactile experience of reading.

In business something similar is occurring. Service is being emphasised and grand retail experiences command a premium. I’m writing from the UK where the high street may have been eviscerated by the online world but where shopping streets are also being reinvented in more positive ways. Here again, superior coffee shops like Harris+Hoole are thriving and cake shops like Patisserie Valerie are expanding. Butchers, bakers and fishmongers have become destinations in their own right as a harsh climate has led to the creation of businesses that try harder to win our loyalty.

One unusual aspect is the hybridisation of the electronic and traditional. Stores now not only match internet prices but also adopt similar schemes to keep us coming back. Barbers offer discounts for repeat customers, local restaurants ping visitors with special deals, supermarkets become collection points for online orders.

It might be a ‘dead cat bounce’ and nobody expects us all to revert to some antediluvian paradise but these examples and embryonic micro-trends such as the revival of letter writing suggest that there is a reaction against the stultifying commoditisation and ultra-efficiency of the internet age.


Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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