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Web Monitor

15:57 UK time, Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor discovers why carparks are the new nannies, Iceland is the new Woolworths and lobbying is the new business plan. Send your favourite bits of the internet via the letters box to the right of this page.

Writing for the US's Regional Plan Association, Alex Marshall says what's missing for middle-class children is unsupervised play with their peers. He calls himself a middle-class dad in Brooklyn, and argues that for play purposes there's little difference between a playground and a street corner, so he's taken to plopping his son in the car park:

" ...playgrounds, with their single gate, always-latched entries and jungle gyms with rubber floors, have become cage-like and womb-like in their protectivity of children from both potential intruders and scraped knees. You have to look elsewhere for truly unstructured play.
As luck would have it, my wife and I live in a converted warehouse that has some low-income housing built across from it, fronting on a barren asphalt parking lot. There are children playing in this parking lot often, virtually all of them coming from the low-income housing. These kids, ages two to 15 or so, play in a self-governing universe, without parents. By design or default, unstructured play has become the domain of the less affluent.
Lately we've been throwing our four-and-a-half year old son Max into this universe, with delightful results. We are not yet willing to allow him to play unsupervised, so one of us tends to sit on a nearby bench, watching but not intruding. No other parents sit and watch, so we are usually the sole grown-up witness to the activity. What you see is the ability of kids still to play, without fancy equipment, without direction."

Retail Week is keeping an eye on what happened to the shop spaces where your local Woolworths used to be. Woolies Watch notes 60% of former Woolworths sites have been let. The firm most hungry for the site is Iceland, followed by discount shops like B&M Bargains and 99p Stores. Retail Week is keeping local newpaper cuttings to tell the story, including Lancashire Telegraph's report that Britain's biggest charity shop will fill their old Woolies store and the 1,800 applicants for 25 new jobs in QD Stores on Northampton's former Woolworths shop, reported in the Evening Telegraph.

• A big dollop of hindsight is being served up with the Economist's blog Free Exchange. They've been tracking across the web what is being said about what the newspapers in the US should have done to avoid decline. Their blog advocates government intervention:

"Often, when an industry faces decline, management and ownership will opt to take door number three; rather than reinvesting profits in new businesses or redistributing them to shareholders, they'll direct them to legislators and lobbyists in an effort to buy themselves protection from competition. This has been the strategy used by agricultural and manufacturing interests, often, though not always, with success."

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