Do Politicians and Bureaucrats Even Know the World is Changing?

Friday, 11 November 2008

Yellow PagesRecently I saw some 50 or 60 new Yellow Pages directories piled up in the reception area of a smart popular business centre. It would have made a great photo opportunity but before I could organise a camera they had been collected by the recycling truck. The moral of the story obviously, who needs a great big cumbersome book when you can go online and find what and who you want so easily?

Groceries? Who needs that Saturday morning hassle when you can answer the door to the delivery man, fill up the fridge and the larder and then do something really interesting for the day instead?

The UK government is obsessed with data based on legacy thinking, particularly consumer spending on the high street. When do they include commercial data from the internet as standard in the general economic reporting? Government agencies such as the DTI can’t even get their heads around the fact that so many companies they categorise as service providers are to a large extent actually manufacturers. Albeit manufacturers of virtual products but none the less they are still manufacturers.

I refer to web development companies and software manufacturers. In my book a manufacturer creates wealth by converting raw materials into a finished product that has an increased value. Or, they add value through assembly and finishing a product from a range of component parts that may have been provided by an outside supplier. Ring any bells? Blank screen, 8 weeks later a bespoke e-commerce website. I have argued in the past that many so called service providers should be relabeled as manufacturers. Would such a re-positioning of many highly successful companies alter the percentage ratios in the UK business portfolio? You bet it would.

The face of town centres in Britain is being changed by the internet. Shopping malls devastated towns through the 80s and 90s. The internet will start to change town centres in the UK for the better. With new shopping patterns through the ever increasing switch to the internet by consumers and businesses towns are going to change. Yes some shops will close and some retail sectors will have to slim down their High Street operations but there will be an upside.

People will start to move back into town centres to live and bring up their children. Cafes, restaurants and other places of community and social activity will proliferate as people come back into towns to live. The night time urban desert caused by towns being given over entirely to daytime retail can change and that change can be for the good.

How much do Government, Senior Executives and organisations such as the DTI really understand about the dramatic changes taking place in our society? In my view not a great deal. There are amazing opportunities to be seized upon but to realise them we need leaders with insight and imagination as well as a simple understanding of the New Basics.

How many young people buy newspapers? If our so called top people want to re-educate themselves then let them start by talking to sixth formers. If the banks had put school leavers in charge of communication and advertising they might have not just delivered better services and information but also have saved millions that could be handy just now.

Does Google sit at the top tables with the so called Captains of Industry? I hope they do but somehow I doubt it. Britain and the US have some truly fantastic companies who are leading the world in the new sectors. Unfortunately so many highly placed decision makers have their feet firmly planted in the old world thinking in the old ways about yesterdays issues. When will they realise that tomorrow is already here?

Roger Allen
Managing Director

  • Zofia

    I agree totally with Roger. May I give you an example? Over the last week I have been looking for a large inflatable Santa Clause to hang outside my house. I have been in around 15 or more shops without any success. How would I begin to use Yellow Pages to solve my problem? And if I phoned another 10 shops I would have a phone bill.

    I decided to “Google” Santa. After about 10 to 15 minutes I’ve found just what I want and have ordered it for delivery to my house within seven days.

    That’s the future of shopping to a large extent like it or not.

  • Roger

    A response to Peter.

    The transition to the digital market place is happening irrespective of how much thought Peter would like to give to the issue.

    I fully appreciate the amount of government information available online. Which beggars belief that so many government agencies are still slave to the old perspectives?

    Print has not risen with digital. Some print companies have embraced the new technologies and are profiting from it whilst many more are still fighting a belated rearguard action against modernity.

    The printed guide is invariably out of date before it’s delivered. It’s nonsense to suggest they are more relevant.
    Yellow Pages might well be delivered to 97% of households and businesses. The important point is how many recipients actually use it, nowadays not that many.

    Yellow Pages is not the only way the public gets government information. Quite the opposite if it has gone to the recycling plant. The easiest way to get government information is through the internet.

    The fact that apparently so many businesses display the logo proves the point as to how out of touch some business leaders and so called marketing directors are.

    The bit about the plumber is intriguing. What decade does Peter inhabit? Recently we moved office and acquired all our services through the internet without any problem. So much easier than thumbing through pages of entries many of which have moved or gone out of business.

    As far as reliability and ethics are concerned I would refer you to the used car sales in any YP.

    Picking up a book over a cup of coffee…how many arms have you got?

    Your comments prove the case for me. Yellow Pages are no longer as relevant as was the case a few years ago. That applies to business to business or the general public. Yell.com is a different matter.

    I simply think that Peter is totally out of touch. Presumably Peter would think it’s OK to use a horse and cart for deliveries?

  • Peter

    This article simply shows why the transition to a digital market place needs careful thought and management.

    The author doesn’t appreciate the amount of government information and services that are now online.

    And Yellow Pages is not the dying beast he might think it it.

    There has been a print paradox going on in the market place. Print has risen in line with digital.

    And there is a very simple reason for this.

    When you have 50 million or so digital platforms trying to compete with each other, the printed guide that sorts information both locally and nationally for you, this is of more relevance.

    Yellow Pages, I understand, goes into circa 97 per cent of households. The internet doesn’t. In fact there are reckoned to be well over 20 million people who do not have access to the internet.

    The only way you can guarantee that the public gets the government information they are entitled to is through publications such as Yellow Pages.

    That is why large national companies use the Yellow Pages logo in the corner of their TV ads.

    There is also the problem of inconvenience. If you want a local plumber, you can go into the office, turn the computer on, wait for it to boot up. Then type in the word plumber and get 300 zillion hits.

    Then you have to plough through all the junk and misleading sites and maybe find something that is a scam.

    YP publishes trusted information that is presented ethically.

    People want information they can rely on.

    You also have the option of picking up the book over a cup of coffee and finding that local service right away and seeing everything that is on offer, not imcomplete listings you get on the www.

    Which method is the least time consuming?