David Levinson provides an interesting look at the concept of Peak Car, painting a picture of how society might look in 20 years time predicting people become less dependent on the automobile.
The blog post puts forward the view that we will be working significantly less hours in the office and spending less years in the workforce. Accommodating this change in office hours would be a further blurring of the boundaries between work and home, more flexible working practices and the adoption of technology to enable communication and collaboration outside the office (eg Yammer, Tibbr, Huddle etc).
This obviously has plenty of advantages for consumers, with long commutes associated with increased amounts of stress, divorce and other social ills.
Whether we see this come into play remains to be seen. Figures from the OECD point to a moderate decline in the average working hours in nearly all member countries including the United Kingdom — although this doesn’t amount to anywhere close to the days off work that Levinson suggests. We are also not seeing a drop in the age that people retirement among OECD countries and this is not likely to be something encouraged by governments faced with a drop in their work force dependency ratio.
We have seen the Department of Work and Pensions advocating for flexible working practices, pointing to the advantages of falls in absenteeism, increased retention rates and productivity, easier recruitment and greater employee loyalty. But this position is not necessarily unanimous given recent policy changes at Yahoo! and Hewlett Packard although discussions with Jacob Morgan suggest that these companies introduced these measures to address company specific problems.
As for the current picture,there is definitely evidence to suggest that we’ve seen a crest in traffic volumes with Transport for London showing that 1999 saw a peak in traffic flows. Whether this holds when United Kingdom returns to robust growth remains to be seen.
The newspaper sector is facing something of a cross roads with a general decline in readership and advertising revenues for print publications. The internet is providing a valuable alternative distribution channel to print, particularly as smartphones and tablets find themselves increasingly in the hands of UK consumers. The web though provides a mixed story on whether online advertising revenues will fill the hole. News outlets can no longer rely on their role as curator of users view on the world as consumers turn to social media and an array of services such as Flipboard and Zite to navigate around what might be important to them. This change has the potential to lead to a decrease in web traffic for the newspaper websites and also arguably increases the leverage of high profile journalists who have less need for the prestige of a newspaper byline (see the recent departure of Walter Mossberg and David Pogue as a litmus test of sorts). But all is far from lost for our traditional providers of news who aren’t simply standing still. The Daily Mail and The Guardian are both interesting examples of news organisations that are adapting to the digital age. Both organisations are embracing audiences beyond those reachable by their printing presses and have adapted their newsrooms to the always on news cycle. Results from Guardian News and Media (the Guardian and Observer’s publisher) point to an increase in online revenues that counterbalances the decline in print revenues, providing some vindication of the organisation’s digital-first strategy announced in 2011. Reassuring news, given the important role the Guardian and other newspapers have played in raising the profile of important societal to the society we live in.