I’ve always considered myself to be a Guardian reader. For probably twenty years I bought a Guardian most days and read it on the tube on my way to college and, later, my job. The routine was always the same, I’d read the Guardian in the morning and a book on my way home in the evening.
Ironically, it was working at the Guardian that broke me of the habit. There are plenty of copies of the Guardian hanging around their offices so it seemed a little wasteful to buy one from a newsagent when there would be free copies waiting for me at the end of my journey. So my routine reversed itself. I was reading a book on the way in and the paper on the way home.
Then when I stopped working at the Guardian I just never got back into the habit of buying the paper. I started reading books in both directions on the tube. Of course, something else had changed. At about this time I had started using Bloglines (and later Google Reader) to read news feeds from web sites. And, probably more importantly, newspaper web sites started to publish news as it happened to their web sites (and, hence, web feeds) rather than saving it up and putting it all in the print edition first.
So I didn’t really miss my daily paper. I was getting more news that I had been by just reading the Guardian. I was getting a wider view of the news as I was subscribed to feeds from all of the UK newspapers. And I was getting my news sooner. Against all that paying 50p a day for old news seemed a pretty bad deal.
I kept on reading books on both of my commutes and keeping up with news through web feeds during the day. About a year ago I switched to reading my books on a Kindle.
And then a couple of weeks ago I saw the Guardian had released a Kindle edition. For a tenner a month you get each day’s edition of the paper sent automatically to Kindle early in the morning. There was a two week free trial subscription, so I signed up.
After ten days I cancelled the subscription. It seems that reading a daily newspaper no longer fits into my routine. I found myself more interested in reading the next chapter of my book than the Guardian. And on the couple of occasions I forced myself to read it, I kept thinking to myself “But I’ve already read this. This is yesterday’s news.”
And I think that’s the key point here. I’m now so used to reading news within an hour or so of it happening, that I’m not interested in reading news from twelve or twenty-four hours ago. I’m spoilt by having near instant access to all of the world’s news agencies.
I’m no longer interested in reading a daily newspaper.
There are, however, a couple of things that I’m missing out on. Firstly, a good newspaper (and I consider the Guardian to be a good newspaper) won’t just report the news. It will explain the news and give it context. Look beyond the first dozen or so pages of the Guardian and you’ll find interesting in-depth analysis of the news. I’d like to read that. But, to be honest, I often didn’t have time to read that when I was a regular reader. So often I’d see a couple of interesting articles, mentally mark them as “to read later” and then completely forget about them. What I want is access to those articles in the evening or over the weekend when I have time to read them.
The second thing I’m missing is those serendipitous articles that catch your eye when flicking through the Guardian to get to something that you’re looking for on page thirty-two. That strange headline that draws you in and ends up with you buying some interesting-sounding musicians entire back catalogue. I discovered some of my favourite bands that way.
So maybe what I want is a newspaper with the news taken out. Perhaps a weekly magazine that contains the Guardian’s in-depth news articles along with its non-news content. That I’d be willing to pay a tenner a month for.
But I don’t want a newspaper any more, thank you. That’s so last millennium.