I’m not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet. However, I’m going to make a prediction: The Daily is doomed. It takes a brave man (or a fool) to bet against Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch, but here’s my reasoning.

About aged 9 (35 years ago!), I discovered the daily newspaper. I used to race my Father to the front door when it was delivered every morning. He usually won. However, I would hover impatiently as I waited for him to finish his morning skim before going off to drill, fill, and pull (guess his career?).

I started with The Glasgow Herald, but by age 17 I was enjoying The London Times. I would read it from cover to cover every day; no small feat, considering it contained about the same number of words as a small novel.

And did I know the world! Apart from the detailed coverage and analysis of UK news on a national and regional level, there were always 1-2 pages on the USA, 2-3 pages on Europe, and 2-3 pages on the rest of the world. On top of that there were sections covering a wide range of the weird and the wonderful in arts, culture, sports, and hobbies. The Saturday paper was two or three times the size of the Mon-Fri version. The Sunday paper was even bigger (I’m told).

I must have spent at least about 10-15 hours a week consuming this extensive, varied, and regular diet of news and opinion. And I did this for over 20 years. It certainly didn’t give me a Christian worldview, but it definitely gave me a view of the world.

Then came the Internet.

It wasn’t until I downloaded The Daily and tried it for a few days that I realized how radically the Internet has changed my news reading habits. As I swiped through the articles on my iPad, I was impressed by the clear presentation, the colorful graphics, and the smart technology. But I was totally bored. The articles were well-written. But I would not ordinarily have chosen to read even one of them.

And that’s the difference. Now I get to choose. Now I get to be my own editor.

Growing up I got used to the omniscient newspaper editors choosing what I needed to know. There was no alternative. And, stuck on a train on the boring morning commute, I had no choice but to read what they dished up. However irrelevant or boring the articles, they were more interesting than the Glasgow suburban rail-scape. 

At the office coffee break, I could either join in the discussion of Dallas (under-thirties read here) with my six female colleagues or pull out the newspaper. I couldn’t open Internet Explorer because, even though I had a computer on my desk, the Internet was still unheard of (as were color monitors!).

But that forced news diet, chosen by another, has now been replaced by the Internet smorgasbord. This newspaper addict can’t recall the last time he needed or took a daily newspaper fix. I’ve now got so used to just reading what I choose to read, pursuing my own interests via an unlimited number of websites and blogs, the idea of someone choosing what I should read seems like reverting to childhood.

I know I don’t know as widely as I used to know. I know that in some ways I had a wider worldview when I was a teenager than I do now. And I know that is to my own impoverishment.

I do try to force myself to read books, blogs, and websites that expand my knowledge and vision. However, my default is now to go deeper with my passions and interests rather than wider with the passions and interests of others. And if I am representative of the general public – and I think I am – then not only is The Daily doomed, but so also are daily newspapers in general.

Deeper and narrower
And, if you want another prophecy, here’s the future (or something like it). Zite is a personalized iPad magazine/newspaper that gets smarter as you use it. A kind of Flipboard on steroids, it analyzes your blog-reading, Twitter feed, etc, and, using complex algorithms, chooses the news that reflects your interests. Over time, as you read or reject its suggestions, the selections will more and more accurately reflect your interests.

Welcome to the new age of news. It’s a far deeper world; but also much narrower.

  • se7en

    This is such a good observation… I remember pouring over the morning newspaper when my folks had finished with it… for hours, morning tea in hand and the smell of newsprint!!! From the age of being able to read to well through varsity and into academia… reading whatever was placed before me and certainly a view of the world!!! Now I spend just as much time reading news but it is all carefully selected to to satisfy my palate and comes through my rss feed… It is a view of the world, my world… And you are so right I would like it to be a much wider view!!! Thanks for the alert… now we need a solution!!!

  • Bernard

    One possible solution is The Week.‘s a digest of the week’s newspapers. Much less time-consuming than reading a daily paper, therefore more realistic given the competition for our attention in the internet age. And yet it still offers the benefits of submission to someone else’s more rounded view of the world. I find it very helpful and a great source of sermon illustrations.The irony is that it feeds off the daily papers that are going out of business because of alternative news sources – such as The Week!

  • David Murray

    I like that solution, Bernard. I’ll have a look…while it lasts.

  • Bobby R

    I came across this article and chose to read it. It is a very good observation.What happens when we send someone a link to an article we found interesting? They can choose if they click on it or not, but in general, I tend to read articles that my friends personally recommend. Blogs are also recommendations, for example, the “A La Carte” that Challies does. I usually make choices based on what interests me, but I don’t have to. If I make it a habit to read a quantity of articles that other people recommend, I might be able to slightly broaden my worldview.

  • David Murray

    Yes, Bobby, that’s how I get a lot of my news today as well. We allow our friends and others we respect to be our “editors” a well.

  • Bernard

    Printed news has an interesting advantage over web-based news when it comes to submitting to someone else’s editorial judgement. I find it’s almost physically impossible to click on an article link that I don’t consider interesting. Yet if I have a magazine like the New Yorker in my hands, I’m far more likely to give every article the benefit of the doubt as I flick through the pages. Instead of making a conscious decision to click on the link in order to read the article, I have to make a conscious decision to skip a few pages to avoid the article. That’s a far healthier dynamic because it expands my world (as you say above). That’s why I’m determined to stick with the printed editions of The Week and the New Yorker.No need to reply!