You may not have heard of The Daily, but it’s going to change the way you consume the news.
The Daily is an online newspaper that launched last week. The creation of news baron Rupert Murdoch, it’s designed specifically to be read on the iPad, Apple’s electronic tablet.
And it’s impressive.
The Daily is intensely visual. Brimming with photos and videos, it’s mesmerizing. There’s text, to be sure, but the experience is based more on absorbing visual information than it is on reading. Pages and sections aren’t always clearly delineated, so you’re encouraged to skip around to whatever pops up next. Ads are incorporated seamlessly into the presentation, so they’re harder to avoid — a plus for advertisers.
In a way, I think The Daily’s presentation really gives new meaning to the phrase “surfing.” When the Internet was new and people talked about surfing the Web, they were talking about jumping from one website to another. But those websites were largely text-based. So you were really surfing among opportunities to read things.
In this new format, reading is diminished. It’s less like reading and more like grazing. Nutritionists tell us that grazing is the healthiest way to eat — frequent, smaller meals are better than a few heavy ones.
But I’m not sure that grazing is the best way to absorb information. It shortchanges concentration and deep understanding. Research is already being done on the way our brains are changing as we adapt to the digital revolution in communication.
But whether The Daily is a success or not, I think it marks a turning point. I believe you’re going to see this kind of format become a standard in digital communication. For the last decade, we’ve been moving away from the print-based communication that’s been the standard for 500 years, and Murdoch’s online newspaper is a milepost in that transition. If it’s not a huge hit, others that copy it will be.
Many of us grew up in a time when people read newspapers, magazines and serious books. But I don’t think these earlier generations were more virtuous. It’s simply that those avenues were the only ones open to them.
As soon as national news coverage flourished, our grandparents inhaled stories about Babe Ruth. Movie fan magazines prospered. They listened to “The Shadow” and quiz shows on the radio
Now we have vastly more choices for news and entertainment — and going forward, more of them will be like The Daily. Perhaps that means we’re becoming a shallower society, but I don’t think that’s really the case. We’re not necessarily shallower than those who came before us — we just have the means to indulge our shallowness more.