It was 15:37 (GMT) on a Thursday afternoon when we officially ran out of ideas. The request from the editors had been bouncing around for a couple of weeks: We need to write about the clocks going back. We’d groaned and tried to ignore it, but it kept resurfacing. Like time itself, the need was eternal.
If you’re not in the digital publishing business you might not know this, but people absolutely love reading articles about the clocks changing. They are routinely among the biggest performing stories on the site, and perhaps the purest distillation of how web traffic works in 2023: Find something that people are Googling and write about it so that when they Google it, they’ll click on it.
This is, of course, depressing, but we’ve been doing it for years, so much so that it’s become a kind of joke. As a newsroom we’ve attacked it from every possible angle: The clocks are changing for one of the last times ever; they should stop changing the clocks; they should stop changing the clocks to make us healthier and more productive; what if they abolished time zones and stopped changing the clocks altogether?
Of course, the most direct approach would be the easiest: “When Is Daylight Saving Time 2023?” But at WIRED, we try to add some context, or some commentary, or some scientific rigor to proceedings. So we brainstormed. Matt Reynolds on the Science desk suggested: “Every Timezone, Ranked!” (UTC is clearly the “OG timezone,” he said, although he worried about that presenting a very Eurocentric view of the world. India and Sri Lanka would rank highly for being half an hour out of step with the rest of the world. Proximity to the international date line, we felt, added a sense of intrigue. Mountain time has the best name.)
In the UK, the clocks actually changed on October 29, and a touch of mild sleep deprivation might explain the level of discourse on show here. I suggested interviewing the owner of a clock shop in the run up to the big day when they had to reset thousands of antique timepieces by hand. Science writer Grace Browne offered to do a piece of gonzo journalism where she continued to live as if the clocks hadn’t changed—turning up an hour late to everything, trying to get other people onside. A time insurgency.
Of course, there are very serious points to be made. We’ve just made them all before. Changing the clocks twice a year is bad for people’s health, for the economy, and maybe even for the climate, and there have been serious efforts to stop doing it in both the US and Europe for years, only for these to continually stall. A study published last year calculated that an extra hour of daylight in the evenings would save $1.2 billion a year in the US by reducing road collisions. “Darkness kills,” said Steve Calandrillo, a University of Washington School of Law professor who studies the economics of daylight saving time, when he spoke to my colleague Amanda Hoover in March, the last time the clocks changed.