The online journalism timeline
<b>Colin Meek</b> maps out the history and development of online news
In just one decade online journalism has become central to peoples' lives and as a result, some have abandoned print news altogether. Journalism.co.uk has created a timeline that plots the development of online news - not a comprehensive list of every success and failure, but an outline of many of the events and debates that have shaped the craft of online journalism in the UK since 1994.
If you have any suggestions for new developments, or things that we have missed please leave a comment or email email@example.com.
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois releases a beta version of its web browser Mosaic.
The University of Florida’s journalism school launches what is believed to be the first journalism site on the internet.
The electronic Telegraph is launched as the UK's first newspaper website. Its first editor Derek Biston recently wrote: "Our brief was simple: explore this new medium; evaluate the usefulness of establishing the Telegraph as an online brand; learn about the technology and the commercial possibilities. The last point, although the most alien for journalists, was clearly uppermost in the thoughts of the proprietor at the time."
BBC Online starts as a full service. In less than one year it offers more than 140,000 pages of content and 61,000 pages of news.
The Guardian Unlimited network of websites is launched. By 2001 it has 2.4 million unique users, making it the most popular newspaper site in the UK.
The first version of RSS headline syndication is developed by Netscape. The service means that when websites publish a news story and an RSS file is updated, other sites can now feature its headline with a link back to the original. RSS was abandoned by Netscape but continued to be developed by UserLand. RSS was to become pivotally important to the development of news aggregators and weblogs.
Online editors and publishers are warned to be on their guard against hackers after Yahoo, Amazon.com, Buy.com and CNN.com are all hit with information overloads through 'denial of service attacks'. CNN Interactive managing editor Chuck Westbrook said: "If they can bring down Yahoo!, they can bring down anybody."
Associated Press launches AP Streaming News to give news sites and broadcasters multimedia content. "The online news market is moving quickly to embrace multimedia presentations that include audio and video, driven by the increasing momentum behind broadband delivery technology and more competition for the online news audience," said director of AP multimedia services Jim Kennedy. "The AP identified that shift early and developed AP Streaming News to help its member newspapers and broadcasters catch the leading edge of this audio-video wave."
The notorious Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill (RIP) is published by the UK government to a storm of protest. Journalists and civil rights campaigners say it gives the police almost unlimited freedom to intercept e-mail and track use of the internet (see below for further information).
Audible.com is launched. The site is dedicated to the sale of the spoken word in digital form. In 2004 it recruited 100,000 new members in just nine months and was re-listed on NASDAQ. It is also now selling audible versions of daily newspapers that can be automatically downloaded overnight to MP3 players.
A study by City University's Department of Journalism finds that only 11 per cent of regional newspaper journalists have access to the internet.
The NetMedia conference organisers slam UK national papers for using their websites as a 'dumping ground' for print content. They said websites are treated by the nationals as 'silicon newsprint'.
Paris-based EPNWorld attempts to create a virtual media marketplace with the launch of newsatsource.com and correspondent.com where journalists can file stories and editors can find original, quality editorial content. The service no longer operates.
The dean of the University of Marland's College of Journalism, Tom Kunkel, argues that the biggest ethical issue facing journalism today is the influence of advertisers in online newsrooms. "In the internet environment, the only way to make money at this time is with advertising," he said in an article on the Poynter Institute site. "There is pressure to use material that will draw advertising. This is a huge issue that we are already starting to see manifesting itself and that will become increasingly problematical for the industry at large."
journalism.co.uk reports results from the first eye-tracking study carried out by Poynter. This found that people surfing the web appear to be more interested in text than graphics. This contradicts earlier studies carried out with people reading magazines.
The Online News Association sets up a new set of awards to recognise the best examples of online journalism.
The dot.com slump starts to bite hard as news-dependent sites start to lay-off many staff. Some of the highest-profile sites are hardest hit including APBNews, CBS Internet Group and Oxygen Media. The worst publicity focused on Salon.com however. In 2000, it posted a net loss of $6.2 million on revenues of $2.6 million in the first quarter attracting vitriolic reaction from business commentators.
The massively over-hyped WAP technology platform is widely condemned as unreliable while the influential technology site useit.com says it has "miserable usability". It-director.com said "operators like BT Cellnet, in a series of ludicrous adverts, have completely over-positioned this new technology and raised user expectations far beyond a level attainable by anyone at the present time".
The number of people regularly using the internet in the UK jumps to 12 million, a study finds.
This year's NetMedia conference attracts 3,300 delegates.
The winners of the European Online Journalism Awards are spread across the continent, although the BBC wins four of the 19 categories. Miroslav Filipovic from the highly rated Institute for War and Peace Reporting won Internet Journalist of the Year. His son Sacha accepted the award on his father's behalf as Mr Filipovic has been arrested for his reporting of the Kosovo conflict.
A survey of 1,000 people finds that the British public will never turn to the internet as their first choice for news. Just 1 per cent of those surveyed said the internet was their most important source of news. The survey was commissioned by the business news provider just-sites.com.
Useability guru Jakob Nielsen says email newsletters are often too long and take too much time to read. "Users are incredibly stressed when processing their in-boxes: they have to get to the urgent messages from their boss, customers, spouse, etc, so they typically don't have time to read much," says Mr Nielsen.
The Hampshire Chronicle becomes the first British Newspaper to publish in an e-book format.
The huge demonstration aimed at disrupting the IMF and World Bank meetings in Prague sparks enormous interest in the Indy Media Centre (IMC) network of sites. The IMC phenomenon was kick-started with the anti-capitalism protests the previous year followed by the demonstrations in Seattle against the WTO and World Bank. The UK IMC says the interest in independent media was "triggered by discontent with the mainstream media and supported by the widespread availability of media technologies; groups all over the world are creating their own channels of information and distribution in order to bypass the (mainstream) corporate media".
The interactive publishing consultancy concludes that the online newspaper has proven to be a failed business model. "It is not too early to make that judgement," it said. "No web server upgrades, no new middleware enhancements, no site redesigns in the foreseeable future are going to fundamentally improve web newspapers' on-site times, frequencies and pages viewed," the company said.
The dot.com sector in the US has shed 22,000 jobs since the end of 1999.
The International Herald Tribune launches a radically redesigned site. The site enables users to flick over page turns and store headlines for viewing later. The redesign is widely praised.
Circulation figures show that broadsheet newspaper sites are far more popular than tabloid sites. This month the Guardian Unlimited received 25.9 million hits, while the Sun reached just one-third as many.
The Online News Association (ONA) joined forces with other media organisations to defend hyperlinking to third-party content in the face of a US legal threat.
The dot.com slump bites hard in the UK as the FT and Mirror Group axe more than 100 jobs between them. Forty of the jobs are lost in FT's internet group.
The new Scottish daily newspaper, Business AM, announces a massive investment in its online version. A new fully searchable archive and other interactive features are to be available free of charge to registered users. Business AM ceased publication in 2004.
IPC Media revamps its beme.com portal for women and integrates content from its Marie Claire and Now titles. The refocused site is now aimed at ABC1 women aged 20-35. Commercial director Sarah Fitzgerald said: "Our strategic focus on this key target audience includes the online development, though BEME, of two of our major brands, firstly Marie Claire, followed by Now."
BBC News Online and Guardian Unlimited dominate the European Online Journalism Awards, but key categories are won by other competitors with tiny budgets. The award for best overall journalism service went to Aftenposten Multimedia for its Oslopuls website. Fotball Spesial scooped the sports prize and Norwegian sites were nominated for two other awards. Internet Journalist of the Year was picked up by Dave Green of ntk.net - the hugely successful and irreverent news column of new media anecdotes.
New Media consultant Steve Yelvington says there are signs of recovery from the dot.com slump and that some local news sites in the US are thriving. While some sites had collapsed, internet usage was rising, he points out.
The destruction of the World Trade Center in New York stuns the world and news sites fold under the weight of demand. Some sites such as telegraph.co.uk, which had built in extra capacity, see massive surges in demand reaching 600 service requests per second. The current editor of telegraph.co.uk says that online journalism entered a new era when the Twin Towers were attacked.
One of the Netherlands' biggest publishers shuts down most of its online publications, blaming them for destroying print revenue.
IPC Media announces that it is to abandon three of its web magazines with the loss of 90 jobs. The site for the men's magazine Loaded and the recently revamped beme.com are among those closed. Sly Bailey, chief executive of IPC Media, blames "changes in the media landscape" for the move. She says: "Two years ago, investment and confidence levels in the internet were over-inflated. Now, the reality is very different and media organisations are adopting greater commercial realism in their forward plan."
Journalism.co.uk reports that, against all predictions, Salon.com is beginning to make money through 12,000 subscriptions to its site. Patrick Hurley, senior vice-president of business operations, told journalism.co.uk that it is hoping to generate an extra $1-2 million annually through subscriptions to its premium service, which offers daily news and extra features without any advertising.
Following the September 11th attacks in the US, online editors are advised to plan ahead to build systems that can cope with surges in demand.
Irelandclick.com moves to a full subscription model. Editor Mairtin O'Muilleoir tells journalism.co.uk: "Our papers are world class and fill a vital niche; we offer great columnists as well as an Irish language service. So why aren't they worth paying for? And if someone in Belfast has to pay, why not someone in Belarus or Boston? When you pay for something it is perceived as having greater value."
A small e-mail newsletter publisher based in Brighton gains the first ABC Electronic audit of distribution. The company, Headstar, sets the benchmark with its six-year-old 'e-government bulletin'. It has a fully opt-in distribution of 6,864.
A French study finds that local newspapers with websites have healthier circulation figures than those without. The report, from editorial consultancy Pressflex, says: "While conventional wisdom suggests that newspaper websites cannibalise print circulation, this analysis shows no such effect. These French figures validate previous US readership surveys that suggest newspaper web sites generate significant marketing benefits. Newspapers with weak circulation can cross the internet off their list of suspected culprits."
Guardian Unlimited scoops more awards at the British Press Awards. The Guardian's web site, which wins the web site of the year award, is described as being "ahead of the pack", "full of tremendous journalism" and a "stylish and pace-setting site with a distinctive character and sense of humour".
The notorious Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bills is put on ice by the British government. Home Secretary David Blunkett, who had claimed the measures were introduced to combat terrorism, concedes that the government has underestimated people's fears about the possible infringement of their privacy. Many journalists had voiced concerns about the effect such a law would have had on their ability to do investigative work.
The New York Times becomes the first newspaper to digitise its entire archive. The whole archive, dating back to 1851, is to be included in a searchable database.
Guardian Unlimited comes under fire from a high-profile blogger who claims it is attempting to appropriate the movement with its national blogging competition. The Guardian claims the competition will 'promote and reward the cream of British bloggers', but Tom Coates - winner of the European Blogger of the Year competition for plasticbag.org - calls it "a bloody stupid idea".
Journalism.co.uk reports figures that cast a shadow over the move to the subscription model. Six months after it begins charging for premium content, FT.com has just 25,000 paying users out of a readership of more than 3 million. The Irish Times, which started charging in 2002 year, has attracted only 6,000 paying users from an online readership of around one million.
A new study finds that office workers are more likely to use the internet for news than pornography.
Search giant Google launches Google News, an automated service that uses complex computer algorithms to aggregate headlines from more than 4,000 news sites. Publishers later become concerned that Google is building a business around their own content without paying for it, but Google defends the tool as mutually beneficial because it drives traffic to news sites.
Spain's largest daily paper – El Pais – becomes the first European national daily paper to charge for access to all of its web content.
Journalists and experts in the US predict that news feeds will re-shape the way online news is published. Senior editor of Online Journalism Review JD Lasica says: "News feeds give news organisations another way to reach that most elusive of creatures: the wired, tech-savvy professional. And you can bet that within a year or so, students will be latching on to RSS subscriptions in a big way."
News sites in the UK scoop newspapers with the news of the Columbia space shuttle disaster; most of the Saturday papers are already in press when the story breaks. Deputy head of online content for the Scotsman.com says: "We missed the shuttle story on Saturday because we go to print early on in the day. It was covered on our web site though and was in our Sunday paper the day after." Writing in the Online Journalism Review, Staci D. Kramer, editor-at-large at Cable World, criticises the automated news sorting systems employed by Google News, CNN.com and others. "[Google News] did not have a great showing on Saturday. Its algorithms missed the magnitude of the event spectacularly at points, including the moment when you couldn't even see any reports about Columbia on the first screen."
The gulf conflict leads to a surge in traffic to news sites in the UK and the US as office employees log on to track events while at work. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, preliminary data suggests that between the 13 and 20 March 2003 (the first full week of the war in Iraq), the numbers of users accessing news sites rose by around 40 per cent.
The Wall St Journal pumps $28 million into its online edition in a massive redesign project. The online version has a massive 625,000 subscribers.
The Times launches its first electronic edition.
The BBC overhauls its website for the flagship Radio 4 programme Today.
EMAP announces that some of its key digital brands are making a profit. Web sites for titles including Kerrang and Smash Hits helped the company record an operating profit of £3 million in the financial year ending March 2003.
The NYTimes.com records its highest-yet operating profit for the previous quarter. Profits have now risen for two consecutive years.
Guardian Unlimited introduces charges for some of its content.
The European online journalism community meets in Barcelona for the one-day 2003 NetMedia conference. The theme of the conference is "making online digital media pay its way".
The BBC wins eight out of 21 categories at the 2003 NetMedia online journalism awards. However, the award for the best music and entertainment site is won by NRK Upunkt for its 'Piip-show' which features a real family of nesting birds. Viewers watch the birds build a nest, the eggs hatch and the chicks fly away.
Shadow culture secretary John Whittingdale tells Guardian Unlimited that he is not convinced there is a case for a public service website. He later backtracks and tells the BBC that its online arm should be scrutinized. The Conservative Party tells journalism.co.uk that it has no official policy on the issue.
Interactive Narratives is launched by the professor of journalism at San Francisco State University. The site is a portal for the best interactive journalism on the internet.
Times Online launches a new entertainment site.
Sun Online claims it is the UK's most popular newspaper site. Figures from ABC electronic show that the site had more than three million unique users in August 2003. However, while it has more page impressions than any other newspaper site, its number of unique users is half that of Guardian Unlimited.
The Guardian starts a four-week trial of its new digital edition which is an exact copy of its print edition.
In its submission to the official Graf review of the BBC, ITN calls for more restriction on BBC's commercial activity. It also objects to the expansion of BBC Online Services.
The Daily Mail finally announces its plans for the launch of a new website. "We had the courage to wait," Avril Williams, editorial director for Associated New Media tells journalism.co.uk. "The Mail is our most precious brand and we wanted to be sure that our audience is ready, our advertisers are ready and that it will be profitable."
UK's regional newspapers call for stricter control of the BBC's online service. In a submission to the Graf review, the Newspaper Society says the corporation has become a powerful competitor to the regional press.
The British Press Awards are criticised for failing to offer an award for UK internet journalism.
The 2004 NetMedia conference is cancelled after the venue withdraws support.
The Guardian publishes figures showing that 39 per cent of readers of Guardian.co.uk are based in the US. The site had seen a surge in traffic form the US after the September 11 attacks and during the Iraq war.
UK weblogging firm 20six says webloggers are meeting the demand for independent, reliable web-based news. 20six hosts more than 15,000 weblogs and attracts around 250,000 unique users every month.
The Daily Mail finally launches its website, the last major UK national newspaper to do so. Publishers decide to develop a strategy for online news despite a speech made by chief executive Charles Sinclair in April 2001 in which he says the company has "no belief that newspapers will transfer themselves onto the internet" and said it will not be the place for breaking news.
A remarkable video clip taken from the gun camera of a US Apache helicopter on duty in Iraq receives widespread coverage in the mainstream press – months after it was heavily covered on some online news sites. The clip shows the killing of suspected Iraqi unsurgents. journalism.co.uk covers the story in February as an example of how viral news appears to be bypassing the maintream media.
Microsoft launches a trial news aggregator service called Newsbot using a database of around 4,800 news sources.
The BBC announces the closure of five of its sites in response to the Graf Review of its online service. The review gives the BBC four months to redraft the remit of BBC.co.uk and outline how it plans to increase the amount of content it commissions form external companies. The report finds that, although a negative impact on the UK internet market could not be proven, there were indications that BBC Online may have deterred investment in competing services run by commercial organisations.
Professor of Photojournalism at San Francisco State University Ken Kobré tells journalism.co.uk that most leading news sites are no better at using pictures than magazines were in the 1920s. Kobre - author of the photojournalism bible 'Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach' says most sites use pictures just to break up long grey columns.
The alternative news site schnews.org celebrates its 10-year anniversary. The Brighton-based site began as a free, printed newsletter in 1994 and then launched online in 1996. It now records 20,000 page views each week.
Associated New Media managing director Andrew Hart accuses internet search firms of being parasites that may eventually kill growth in the online publishing industry. He says neutral searches were being distorted by big companies that could afford to pay consultancies to improve their ranking. "This kind of complex distortion is only made available to the big players and will make business in the long term impossible for small firms," said Mr Hart. Lorraine Twohill, director of European marketing at Google, disputes that big firms benefit most from Google by paying for technical tricks to improve their ranking in search results: "Search is driven by complex algorithms. Small sites are often more successful in search results because their content is simpler to index," she said.
Independent news and free speech organisations are outraged when the British Home Office responds to a request from the FBI and seizes the servers of the UK Indymedia site. This brings down 21 of the Indymedia's 140 international news sites. The servers are taken from the site's hosting company Rackspace and the hard drives are returned after six days without an explanation. In November, the Home Office refuses to give any explanation to British MPs who tabled questions on the issue. "I can only confirm that no UK law enforcement agencies were involved in the matter," said Caroline Flint, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Home Office. "I am not at liberty to discuss the specific case in more detail."
Ofcom calls on the public to take part in a debate on its proposals for a new public service publisher that can compete directly with the BBC. It made the proposal in December as part of its review of public service broadcasting.
The BBC's Welsh language service enjoys a surge in traffic after the introduction of VOCAB - a new open source language learning tool. The service offers instantaneous translations of Welsh words as users view the site.
The Scotsman launches the first phase of creating a comprehensive digital archive of its past editions dating back to 1817.
A CBS news story based on a US army memo questions President Bush's war record, but bloggers expose the memo as a forgery. News anchor Dan Rather and four other staff are dismissed as a result.
Eyewitnesses sending photos and reports on mobile phones provide the first on-location material ahead of professional journalists. Professional photographers worry that their jobs are threatened by the rise of 'citizen journalism', but many publishers feel the content provides a valuable supplement to their core coverage.
Few speeches have had as much impact on the industry as Rupert Murdoch's revelations to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He announces that newspapers have been "remarkably, unaccountably complacent" in the face of declining readership and describes the internet as a "monumental, once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape itself and be healthier than ever before."
Telegraph.co.uk claims to be the first UK national newspaper to start podcasting daily, publishing an audio summary of news and columns read by some of its journalists.
The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) establishes a publishing industry task force to challenge what it calls the 'exploitation of content' by search engines. The search engine business model relies on aggregating the content of news publishers, claims WAN, but without paying for it. However, much of the industry disagrees with the move, acknowledging that search engines play a vital role in driving traffic to news sites.
UK newspaper the Guardian launches an extensive new online comment project, creating a pool of several hundred commentators and experts. Editor-in-chief Emily Bell predicts that the future of debate and discussion will be online.
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