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). Worldview
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. Dallas?
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.