I Don’t Like Mondays – Recession 2008 PR Industry Remix

I was talking to one of our team the other day about music and the Boomtown Rats classic song from 1979 came up. The scary thing was the person concerned had never heard of it. I played her the song – still no recognition.

And that got me thinking. Here is a song from my childhood, that I love by the way, and here is this 24 year old to whom it means nothing and to be fair why should it? She wasn’t even born until years after it came out. But what else has this child of the Eighties missed out on that it looks like she is about to experience?


The last recession effectively ended 16 years ago when she was eight years old. She wasn’t even born when the previous one ended in the early 80’s. But to be fair this doesn’t just apply to a 24 year old. If you were born in the year IDLM was released and are therefore 29 now you would have only been 13 when the last recession ended. You may have some appreciation of that period – maybe your Mum or Dad lost their job or your house was repossessed, but I suspect a very high proportion of people in their 20’s can’t really recall what life was like living and working during an economic downturn.

So what has all this got to do with the PR Industry you ask? Well I don’t have the exact figures but I would hazard a guess that the proportion of staff working in the PR Industry who are 29 or less will be somewhere around the 60-70% mark. If my guess is right then that’s the vast majority of people working in an industry who have never known what it is like to work in a recession.

How will they respond? Positively because they won’t be laden down with feelings of inevitability? Or negatively if they don’t recognise the need to up your game big style during times like these?

Only time will tell, but in the meantime let us console ourselves with a truly great piece of music (even if the story behind it is clearly not a pleasant one). Particularly anyone for whom it is new.

RSS subscriptions reach 100 million?

According to Forrester Research the use of RSS has reached 11% of US online adults. Steve Rubel and others have discussed the other main finding that of the other 89% only 17% are interested in adopting RSS in the future. The implication being that RSS is running out of steam and needs mass education to continue its growth rate.

However I wonder if this discussion is potentially missing a relatively obvious numeric point. What does 11% of US online adults equate to? With an estimated 220 million US internet users applying 11% gives 24 million that use RSS (and another 26 million who apparently aren’t sure if they do – 12% responded thus). However this assumes that minor users follow the same proportion which may not be the case but for the purpose of this calculation lets accept this limitation. To put this in context this compares with around 60-70 million US users of Facebook and Myspace. Unfortunately the study was only based on a survey of US internet users so it is not possible to extrapolate this analysis across global internet users on a rigorous basis. However if we make the (over?) simplifying assumption that this study is indicative of general RSS use then based on approximately 1.5bn internet users worldwide this would give approximately 165 million RSS users worldwide. As penetration rates go I would say that was still pretty impressive. Obviously these calculations are more back of a postage stamp than back of an envelope :) but they illustrate the point that this percentage implies some fairly big numbers in absolute terms.

The other point to consider is the potential influence implications of RSS subscriptions. What would be really useful to know would be the detailed makeup of the 11% and the sites that they subscribe to. Were it the case for instance that this analysis showed that key influencers and decision makers in certain markets are proportionally more likely to receive their news via RSS its importance in influence terms would be magnified. If anyone has access to the full report and any information on this I would be delighted to hear from you.

13 million readers and counting

No that isn’t my RSS subscriber figure :-) today is Blog Action Day and if I can post this in the next few minutes I will just get in under the wire. With over 12,000 blogs with far more readers than I – 13 million currently according to the site – having already posted some very in depth posts I thought I would just do a little research on the relative frequency of certain related terms in Google. I think the results tell a brief story about how much attention poverty is given.

A search for “poverty” in Google finds 60 million results. Sounds a lot until you compare it to the following:

money” – 950 million
credit” – 723 million
debt” – 149 million

Of course some of these references will be using the words in other contexts e.g. “it is to his credit”, but these results arguably still reflect the world’s priorities.

But perhaps there is some hope for us yet as a search for “greed” only finds 19 million results – so at least poverty has got that one beaten?

£37bn, but the words aren’t worth the paper they are written on

Today’s announcement of £37bn of investment in British banks was accompanied by words from Gordon Brown at his press conference about rewarding “hard work, effort and enterprise” rather than “irresponsibility and risk taking”.

This is a sentiment I agree with wholeheartedly but one I find very strange coming from the government who only a year ago scrapped Taper Relief, effectively increasing the CGT rate for hard working and enterprising small business owners by 80% from 10% to 18%. Given the number of SME’s in the PR industry this is particularly pertinent to this sector.

At the same time they reduced the rate on speculative asset transactions e.g. share sales and buy-to-let from a maximum rate of 40% to the same new rate of 18%. The overall benefit to the Treasury? A reported “massive” £350m – small beer these days!

The government subsequently made a small gesture to the SME community by introducing entrepreneur relief on the first £1m of gains by owner managers – arguably peanuts in the scheme of things.

So at a time when the country needs, as the PM rightly points out, “hard work, effort and enterprise”, they have created a tax environment that draws no distinction between this and “irresponsibility and risk taking” in asset markets. Unless this decision is reversed in the pre-budget report I find I cannot take these messages seriously.

A £bn here a £bn there…

According to various sources the nitty gritty of the Government’s bank recapitalisation plan is going to be announced tomorrow morning. The coverage reminds me of a quote from The West Wing “A billion here a billion there. Sooner or later it starts to add up to real money.” The important point is what will our £39bn/£50bn get us? By my back of an envelope calculations, based on Friday’s closing share prices and the current rumours, taxpayers are indeed (as per ft.com) about to become the controlling shareholders in HBOS and RBS.

Royal Bank of Scotland

Market capitalisation on Friday £11.9bn.
Rumoured ordinary share investment (according to ft.com) £15bn
Post investment shareholding = 15/(15+11.9) = 56%


Market capitalisation on Friday £6.5bn.
Rumoured ordinary share investment (according to ft.com) £9bn
Post investment shareholding = 9/(9+6.5) = 58%

Of course the HBOS situation will then be further confused by the rumoured £5bn investment in Lloyds TSB and the (apparently) still planned merger of the two.

Finally there is the issue of whether given the current investment environment we should even be investingon the basis of Friday’s closing price anyway? Shrewd investors know how to take advantage of weakness. It will be interesting to see what deal Gordon Brown will have negotiated for us as his track record isn’t the best or perhaps he is already in bed.