Sunday, 20 August 2017

News of the booze

In writing my review of Boak & Bailey’s 20th Century Pub the other day, the thought occurred to me that a strong parallel could be drawn between pubs and print newspapers. I didn’t include it there as it seemed like a sidetrack, but the idea is worth developing further.
  • Both have experienced a steady, long-drawn-out decline in custom spanning several decades

  • In each case, the number of outlets/titles has declined more slowly than total sales

  • Independent regional operators have been snapped up by national and international chains, and frequently closed down

  • There is concern over the domination of the industry by a small number of major players

  • Different brands or titles have very distinct images in the eyes of the general public. Sun=Wetherspoon’s, anyone?

  • Their customers, on average, tend to be older than the population as a whole

  • Both are widely written off as old-fashioned and a thing of the past

  • The people who use or buy them often have a strong attachment to particular brands

  • A growing proportion of the population never have any involvement with them whatsoever
Obviously it doesn’t apply in every respect, but interesting food for thought nonetheless.


  1. Coincidentally as I read that I was listening to a radio programme about the Wapping disputes in the eighties: the start of modern technology in the industry.
    You make an interesting comparison but I think it is a bit contrived. The reduction in print newspapers is technology driven and many people have simply transferred their reading from paper to screen. We can argue about why pubs are dying but it is not due to technology.
    To extend your argument you would have to equate the rise of the internet with the rise in the off trade, and that just doesn't work

    1. The decline of print newspapers began long before use of the Internet became widespread, of course. Both reading a paper and going to the pub are often matters of habit, and people all too easily get out of the habit.

    2. But the decline in newspapers was largely driven by the availability of news on the TV and radio so my contention that it was technology driven still stands. :-)

    3. I probably won't convey my thoughts properly but I think technology does play a part. While folks have transferred their reading from paper to screen, the same can be said that folks have transferred their socializing from the pub to somewhere else. Mudgie has mentioned this in previous posts.

      Also, his post here sort of makes that point:

      Note that it's the old fella - with a paper - sitting in the pub. The younger crowd are more in tune with technology and aren't there - with a paper. :)


  2. General similarities there I agree. Wouldn't put The Sun & Spoons together in any way though. Hope this doesn't sound snobby,but I think there are more quality pubs left than quality newspapers in proportion- not that I'm tabloid averse,just think some of the quality ones have dropped a bit and turned a bit gossipy.True that unlike before for certain significant sections of the population,both pubs and papers are no longer relevant to their daily lives

  3. Guardian = wanky overpriced hipster bar

    1. That would be the FT surely? Or is the FT not a pub at all but a swanky wine bar with overpriced cocktails.

  4. I think you could draw a similar comparison to any number of things which were once central to 'normal' society but have now either been replaced by easier, more convenient forms or ceased to be relevant at all. Petrol stations. Roadside cafes. Coal merchants.

    The demographic that views any fading service as 'essential' (be that pubs, or newspapers) tend to be those old enough to have grown up with it. Kids who grew up getting all their information from the TV and the web, and all their booze from Aldi and Sainsburys, probably wonder what all the fuss is about.

  5. Newspapers have been in decline since the 1930's when people started to get their news from the radio, evolving into opinion & commentary to suit the political views of readers. If anything internet news has reclaimed actual news for online newspapers where people get up to minute news during the working day rather than wait for an evening car radio broadcast or TV news edition when they get home.

    The only similarity to pub decline is noting how the world changes for each generation according to what they wish to consume and how they wish to do it. Not sure the kids are swerving pubs for same reason they swerve printed media. There are no free online pubs unless you count chat rooms which are a bit last decade. Is social media really a form of pub? Is that what we are doing when we share photos of our beer on twitter?

    The decline of pubs are more correlation with the decline of other social institutions like churches, I think. People are less connected to their communities. Don't know the names of their neighbours & see no reason to use local pubs on a wet wednesday night after a days work. They might still go into town at weekend for a whole different experience.

    As for a analogy to the wanky overpriced hipster bar, I offer an left orientated alt-news site rather than any MSM media brand. Spoons is the Daily Mail.

  6. Nah - Pubs are good, newspapers are shit.

  7. Part of the decline of traditional newspapers is down to the emergence of free papers, typically accessible to everyone who leaves the house in all but the most rural areas, with each copy read by multiple readers through the natural recycling process of leaving copies on train seats, in the pub etc.

    Why buy a paper when you can read one on the bus every morning for nowt?

    Consequently I'm looking forward to your analogy holding true and vast quantities of free beer being readily available as the traditional pub declines...

    1. Wrong way round, unfortunately. The emergence of free newspapers is due to the decline of the traditional newspaper business model. Cooking Lager above is correct, although I would quibble over the dates.

      In the UK, there were two main strands running through the history of the newspaper business; one being factual reporting, driven largely by trade (shipping and manifests, stock prices, and the political drivers underlying them), and the scandal sheets and pamphleteers, always political and polemical. Both could co-exist within the same daily paper.

      For my money, the real start of the decline in the UK newspaper business model would be the development of talk radio, sometime in the 80s, possibly slightly earlier, which produced real competition for the polemical aspect, on top of the existing competition for the factual element.

  8. The only thing that's true on the cover of a newspaper, is the date. And if we really want toe extend the cliches, there's the old adage about journalists, of never letting the truth get in the way of a good story.

    I gave up buying a newspaper years ago, as their sole raison d'être is to make money for their proprietors, but if you really want one, then follow Ben Viveur's lead, and pick one up for free at the local station.

    1. "The only thing that's true on the cover of a newspaper, is the date."

      I generally find the footy results are pretty reliable...

      And you're deluding yourself if you think the BBC is any more truthful, or has any less of an agenda.

    2. I don't follow football and couldn't care less which team did what; and who mentioned the BBC? Certainly not me!

  9. "long drawn-out decline in custom spanning several decades" - yeah, a bit. Since the smoking ban: A LOT.

  10. Peterborough beer festival (UK's second biggest) opens tomorrow. That's trade day. My company Angles Ales has 5 of our beers on. I do hope to see a few of this blogs readers duing the week. Happy drinking!

  11. Professor Pie-Tin22 August 2017 at 07:35

    When I started life as a newspaper hack everyone went to the pub every lunchtime every day.
    When I finished it four decades later everyone ate Pret-a-Manger sandwiches at their desk for lunch.
    Some reporters never felt a pavement under their feet for days on end.
    Today if I ever buy a newspaper I've already read most of it online the night before.
    And my analogy ?
    Daily Mirror = RedNev arguing with himself in a corner of The Flying Picket.


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