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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Now that we don't have to buy them we're all newspaper readers

I tweeted a recommendation of a very good column by the Daily Mail's Martin Samuel. Somebody tweeted back that, "while I never read the Daily Mail", the column was very good. Which can only mean that he read it and therefore it's not strictly true to say that he "never reads the Daily Mail".

It strikes me that these days it's as anachronistic to describe yourself as a militant non-reader of a particular title as it is to call yourself a reader of another one. Being a reader of a newspaper in the old fashioned sense implied buying a newspaper at the station on the way to work and then reading it in public in such a way that it advertised something of your social status or world view.

Now that the newspapers have done us the enormous favour of giving away all their content for free we have no need to announce ourselves as a reader of one or another. Instead we go merrily clicking over the wide savannah of the internet oblivious to the jurisdictions we may be crossing. There's strong evidence to suggest that the Daily Mail website became the most popular site in Britain because it is patronised equally by people who would describe themselves as "readers" as "non-readers". What both groups have in common is they read it.