This is a collection of links and comments about the arrival of news (and other) publishing on the World Wide Web. It was originally a 1995 list for discussion by students in what is now UNC's JOMC-50, then stayed around for other visitors. It has grown into a five-part collection of more comments and links than you'll have time to read unless you give up having a life.
--- Bob Stepno
- Browse around your favorite kinds of media, find a few sites that interest you, and get a general idea of what they offer.
- Read a couple of the articles cited at the end of the list and make yourself an outline of the authors' suggestions for "news" publications online.
- Look at a couple of publications from each category below to see how well they fit the writers' descriptions, for better or for worse.
Note: Since the beginning, this combination reference list and commentary has been one continuous page so that visitors don't have to print multiple pages if they want to read offline. You may prefer a new one-page-per-topic version. Or, if you just want to bookmark all of the links without my annotations, see the no-comments version. Let me know what you think.
- The New York Times has redefined its "look" more quickly online than in print, going from a horizontal-format home page in 1995 to a larger display today. You have to register to read full stories, but so far there's no charge unless you want to dip into the archives.
- The Times didn't even have color pictures in its print editions when it took to the Web with a dramatic visual approach to a June 1996 special feature intended to focus discussion of a major news story: Bosnia: uncertain paths to peace. The story includes an index that shows just how many pieces make up the project.
Also look at how The Times used the Java programming language to illustrate the computer's power at simulation, telling a story about AIDS at the same time that it explored New Media Tools for Online Journalism.
Here's a more recent example of the Times online work, an index to its past year's coverage of the Y2K problem, which includes this overview story. You also might want to look at the paper's coverage of technology and education, its collection of reference links on the same subject, and its Navigator page of links "used by the newsroom of the New York Times."
- The Washington Post has been through several versions of its online presence. Online designer Mindy McAdams was there in the beginning, when it was called Digital Ink.
- The Washingtonpost.com user's guide points out that the print and online organizations have separate newsrooms, and that online reporters go out and cover stories in addition to putting the day's print edition online. Here's an example of its coverage of the Year 2000 election. Notice the cross-linkage between the Post and its sister publication, Newsweek. (See the discussion of media ownership and convergence elsewhere in this Web.) For some samples of brief reviews of Web sites, see the archives of the Post's regular technology page feature, WWW.Worth It.
- The NandO Times was started by the News and Observer ("The N&O") in Raleigh, N.C., as a text-only local dial-in computer bulletin board, then a regional Internet Service Provider and one of the first updated-all-day news sites on the Web.
- Nando now has a global news focus as a intermediary publisher of wire service stories and photos. (To get an idea of how much material Nando can put online, see its Princess Diana coverage, including a section on the media backlash.) Nando provides one-stop browsing for stories from AP, Reuters, Agence France Press, Scripps-Howard and several other services. Today, both the N&O and Nando are owned by the McClatchy Newspapers chain, which dumped Nando's Internet Service Provider business and renamed what was left Nando Media. The Nando-processed stories are available on various McClatchy newspapers' Web sites under the heading "24 hour news." Meanwhile back at the newspaper office, a separate staff at The News and Observer Online provides news from North Carolina, public service features, searchable classifieds, and more.
- The Chicago Tribune owns television and radio stations and was among the first newspapers to put a Web staff to work blending content from all three sources. (So far a free service, but started talking about registration in 1999.)
- They also create original Web specials online, as well as augmenting work by the newspaper staff. No wonder a recent in-depth magazine article about the Tribune was titled Synergy City. The Tribune online also has a sense of history; see how it used the Web to cover a story close to home: the death of its famous columnist, Mike Royko. Actually, in the days immediately after his death, the Tribune also had video and audio clips of Royko interviews too, but now it seems only the text is online--terrific text, though, since it includes plenty of Royko himself. After all, he'd been a computer fan for a long time!)
- Mercury Center at the San Jose Mercury News, Silicon Valley's hometown paper.
- For a sample of its online work, see this feature on a hometown hero, Doug Englebart. If you're reading this online, his inventions have changed your life, whether you've ever heard of him or not.
- Here are a few more online papers (I'd be happy to highlight particular stories; send me your nominations):
- The Hartford Courant, "the nation's oldest newspaper of continuous publication."
- StarText at The Fort Worth Star Telegram predated the Internet, but is now on the Web.
- The Boston Globe at Boston.com.
- The Los Angeles Times
- The New York Daily News
- USA Today
- The Christian Science Monitor
- The Wall Street Journal ($59 a year, but there's a free trial) and its Technology column
- Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minn.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are both at Phillynews.com
- The Chronicle of Higher Education, the weekly guide to issues (and jobs) in academia... not to be confused with my old friends at The Chronicle, of Willimantic, Conn., a modest local paper with a modest Web presence.
- The San Francisco Chronicle at "sfgate.com."
- The San Francisco Examiner
- The Irish Times in Dublin.
- The Times, and other papers in London
- See Newslink at American Journalism Review for lists of thousands of other online papers.
MagazinesThe Web seems like a great place for a weekly or monthly publication to offer supplementary services to its subscribers. It's also well-suited to addressing a "niche market" or narrowly defined audience, which has been true of magazine publishing in recent years. The WELL, a computer conferencing system that isn't very magazine-like, actually was founded by the folks behind the Whole Earth catalog and magazine. (The name is an acronym for Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link.) If you only associate those publications with tree-hugging and yurt-building hippies, you may be surprised to learn the WELL started in 1985, long before the Internet-as-we-know-it.
Here are a few other specialized publications marking their niche online:
- Adbusters is a magazine with a very interesting mission, both in print and online.
- Mother Jones, a good source of progressive media criticism.
- The National Review, from the ideologically other side of the street.
- Educom Review--A source of technology news related to education, this magazine is supplemented with an email mailing list.
- Dirty Linen folk and world music, perhaps not the first topic you'd expect to find online..
- Soundings "The nation's boating newspaper," now focuses on its used-boat advertising and coming-events listings. For awhile, Soundings had samples of its news stories online (including a few I wrote.
As might be expected, computer and Internet-oriented magazines were among the first to take advantage of the synergy between the new and old media.
- Wired and spin-offs like HotWired quickly became promoters of the Web online as well as in print, and may really belong in the "born on the Web" category below.
- IDG (home of computer magazines with names like PC World, and whatever-World)
- Ziff-Davis, home of PC Magazine, PC Week, and more.
- MacWorld has a ZD address and an IDG-sounding name. Go figure.
Like newspapers, general-interest magazines also took an interest in the Web pretty quickly, including Time and other Time-Warner publications. They are all together at Pathfinder.com. (Historical note: Both CNN and Time-Warner had well-established Web operations when the companies merged.)
Finally, here's another "born on the Web" site that bridges between in-print and online publishing: Electronic Newsstand, which uses the Internet to sell old-fashioned magazine subscriptions.
Born on the WebThe Internet makes it possible for anyone with access to a Web server to start telling stories... true or false, fact or fiction, with words or with pictures. No press card or journalism degree is required, but that doesn't mean there aren't well-trained professionals behind some of these sites, not just self-proclaimed pundits with axes to grind. Whether publishing online can pay the rent at the same time is another question, but new ideas keep showing up. Feel free to suggest additions to this list.
- APB Online subtitles itself "The Source for Police and Crime News."
- APB's features include FBI files opened under the Freedom of Information Act. There's even a hint of celebrity tabloid in the section APB calls "The G-Files."
- Argon Zark! was probably the first full-length comic book made for the Web.
- That was back in 1995 and you had to type "www.netaxs.com/~cparker/aztitle.html" to get there. Now it has been promoted to "www.zark.com"
- Dr. Fun probably was the Internet's first daily cartoon, launched in 1993.
- It took one of the first Web servers to do it, the University of North Carolina site formerly called Sunsite (now Metalab).
- "A fish, a barrel and a smoking gun" was the original motto of suck.com,
- a fine collection of online attitude. It began as an independent zine but became part of Wired, where its creators already worked. You can check the archives to see whether it was more outrageous in the early days, before it started running advertising like its parent company.
- Salon moved from a literary magazine model to rake a little muck during the scandals of 1998.
- The emphasis is still on book reviews, columns, comics, travel and entertainment. See MediaCircus column archives, and its own best-of collection.
- Feed is another online publication modelled after classic magazines.
- IMedia and technology are major interests. It also has the addition of discussion areas and searchable archives online.
- Slate played catch-up with Salon and Feed, but had very deep pockets.
- It is Microsoft's attempt at Web magazine publishing, and started as a free site, then became a pay site, and now is free again, mostly. (Follow the link for the editor's candid column on the problems of making money online.)
- Is many things, probably first known for industry news and reviews. Now it is a cyber-household-word, even grabbing the address news.com
- Computer Mediated Communication Magazine
- Started by John December (www.december.com), whose fame spread around the Net when he created a list of communication-related resources while a grad student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation
- The EFF Publications Archive provides background information on the organnization's activities on behalf of online free speech.
- Howard Rheingold
- Author of important books on virtual reality, virtual communities, and the early days of computer communication now offers much of his work online, as well as a discussion group.
- A graphically intense web magazine that came, went, and returned. (Warning: Lots of javastuff that may annoy people with old computers and slow network connections.)
- CRAYON at crayon.net
- The acronym stands for Create Your Own Newspaper... a project that started at as a student project at Bucknell University (with a much longer address). Note that it is not crayon.com, which linked to a famous record store chain the last time I tried it by mistake.
- Portals: A whole new category of "publication"
- Many of the sites above borrow from magazine or newspaper models, but the Web's original jumble of sites quickly made search engines like Altavista and index sites like Yahoo some of the most popular destinations. They have evolved into multi-purpose "portals" to attract even more visitors -- and revenue from advertising. Some of those advertisers are online businesses like Netscape, Microsoft, Excite and Snap.com whose own "portal" elements include news publishing.
Internet service providers like Mindspring, Bell South and Southern New England Telephone also feature portal-style home pages, usually pre-set as a new subscriber's start-up page. Their style is similar to America Online, which began providing both access and exclusive content to direct dial-in subscribers. It adapted to the Web and became the largest point of entry for the Internet.
Online publications we've discussed share this "gateway" model to varying degrees, although many see their own content as the attraction, not a wealth of potentially confusing links to information from other sources. It will be interesting to watch these sites as they try to strike a balance between offering rich information that encourages the visitor to stay, or offering a wealth of links that encourage visitors to keep coming back.
Convergence: TV, radio, mixed media and moreIt's hard to keep up with media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and related holdings, including Fox Network, Fox News,, Sky TV and more. He bought, then sold, the pre-Web U.S. online service Delphi, which for a time looked like the New York Post online, then became iGuide, and now is TV Guide Online. The Murdoch-Delphi London counterpart also has gone through changes and hit some dead ends.
With all of the current forces for convergence of print and Web, broadcast and Web, news and entertainment, commerce and everything, it has been interesting to watch how Murdoch properties like TV Guide, Fox-TV and Fox movies promote (or don't promote) each other. The same questions fit almost every media outlet out there, so it looks like these issues will offer plenty of opportunities for Mass Comm master's theses...
On to other "broadcast" companies... ask yourself whether they're doing anything different from what the "print" media are doing on the Web; try to tell the news from the entertainment, and the self-promotion from the ad-promotion.
- PBS and NPR which are featuring Web supplements to news and more.
- CNN Interactive (now with Time-Warner links)
- CBS Television Home Page
- ABC Television Home Page
- NBC Television Home Page
- NBC meets MSN including daily news
- WRAL in Raleigh, my favorite local station site.
- The Antenna, a site about broadcasting and the Web.
- Radio & Television News Directors Foundation online.
...many more publications
- Online or Not, Newspapers Suck by Jon Katz, originally in Wired magazine, suggests the Web alone is no solution to problems that keep whittling away newspapers' readership. (If you've been here before, note the address for this article has changed.)
- Pretty soon, a Way New Journalism was announced by Joshua Quittner (also via Wired) in 1995, before Quittner resurfaced at Time writing a column for Digital Daily.
- A few months later, Carl Steadman was recounting the failings of "way new journalism." in the online Feed Mag, March '96. (hit "cancel" if asked for a password)
- Driving a Newspaper on the Data Highway by Mindy McAdams, is some early advice from an online publishing veteran and co-author of The Internet Handbook for Writers, Researchers, and Journalists.
The Evolution of the Newspaper of the Future by Chris Lapham (in 1995), observes that, "The real beauty of the new technology is its ability to enable newspapers to not only enhance their researching and reporting capabilities, but also to deliver a better, more audience-aware product in an immediate and inexpensive way."
- Tabloids, Talk Radio, and the Future of News: Technology's Impact on Journalism, by Ellen Hume, an Annenberg Senior Fellow and director of PBS's Democracy Project, challenges journalists to keep an eye on the quality of their product, suggesting the "public journalism" movement as a possible model for the civic role of the press. (Unfortunately, the HTML file conversion of her report is flawed and barely readable.)
- Katherine Fulton, founder of The Independent weekly in Raleigh, N.C., saw the online world coming as early as 1993, and told conventional journalists about it in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) and further investigated the new medium as a professor at Duke University. By 1996 she had plenty more to say about both the role of journalism and the business realities of publishing, under the title http://www.journalism.now -- A tour of our uncertain future.
More recently, Joel Simon and Carol Napolitano have taken a good look at digital reporting under the title We're All Nerds Now (CJR March/April 1999), including comments from pioneers in precision journalism or computer assisted reporting.
This page was created by Bob Stepno. Please let me know when you notice that a link has stopped working. The Web is always under construction.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Last substantial revision: 01/Mar/99 (e-mail address corrected more recently)