The Guardian and the digital revolution

The Guardian’s New Premises – Author: Andrew Pinnell

Of course virtually everyone’s lives are now consumed by the credit crunch and the impact of a failing economy is hitting the majority of businesses very hard. Inevitably, companies are analysing the minutiae of the bottom line and in many cases the plans to move or expand offices are being shelved and budgets slashed as Directors’ survival instincts take over. The initial desire to reduce overhead and cut expenditure is natural, but so often a flawed strategy.

Frankly, the recession is long overdue as the economy had become fat on loss-making businesses, sloppy customer service and exorbitant pricing across many sectors, especially retail. Now we are in a landscape where only businesses that embrace changing consumer habits, deliver innovative products, plus exceptional levels of service will survive. And thank god for that. The benchmark had become too low, money to easy to come by and we were all being fleeced.

Cut if you will to an episode of the three-part Media Revolution series broadcast on BBC and presented by the excellent Janet Street Porter. The series is inspiring throughout and a joy to people like me who believe in the digital revolution. Sadly, the UK SME sector has been pitifully slow to catch on and attempt to benefit from the vast commercial opportunities that are now available at the click of a mouse.

When I was a crimped haired student in 1984, it was almost impossible to envisage the media theories of Marshal McCluan who wrote of  ‘The Global Village’ and ‘The Medium is the Message’  as long ago as 1953 (check).  Well, it has taken 25 years, but we truly do now live in a global village where the communication channels themselves define the audience. If you want to target anyone under 25, the Internet is your only real option short of buying ad. space in the breaks between Big Brother. I digress, but it is a crucial point. The digital age is now a reality and any business that cannot adapt, might as well pack it in now. With the banking system in crisis, you have the ultimate excuse after all!

Street-Porter analysed the impact of the digital revolution on Fleet Street. Newspapers are being hammered not just by falls in circulation, but also by plummeting ad. revenues. The recession has sounded the death knell for recruitment, property and automotive advertising streams which have propped-up the press for three decades or more. These incomes will never return. We are living in a different place. The internet is taking over and, in the words of Kevin Roberts (CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide), “the consumer is boss”.

It is not all doom and gloom by any means. Janet interviewed the editor of The Guardian in their swanky new offices in Kings Cross. The new media world shimmers on my TV and every element of the premises seems to scream style and cool. Shiny Apple Macs flicker, global images flash upon a myriad of plasma’s and every pair of eyes is glued to a screen of one sort or another. These screens now control us; we have started to touch them, they are talking to us – soon we will be talking to them!

The Guardian is responding to the digital revolution by redefining itself. 20 million people access their website every month, 7 million in the US. Video content posted online every minute; nothing is static anymore, half a million people can be on the Guardian’s site at any one time. Think about it.

The relocation of the business also represents a statement of corporate  intent, part of a massive rebranding exercise designed to cope with a fundamental shift in contemporary human behaviour; instant access, choice on demand, free content. Anything else is unacceptable to the urban consumer.

And as Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian predicts the demise of printed newspapers on my wall-mounted Sony Bravia, my eye is drawn to the beautiful interior design of the premises. Impress is delighted to be the marketing agency for 3Sphere, the company commissioned to source and install the stunning array of furniture in The Guardian’s new home. I am thrilled by 3Sphere’s contribution to such a ground-breaking project and marvel at the visionary working environment created by all those involved.

The digital age is paralleled by a design revolution where we are all demanding more from design in the broadest sense be it in the form of gadgets, furniture, architecture, cars and clothes. It has not yet touched everyone, but it certainly will.

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