History of the digital newsroom

A brief look at how the news industry embraced online publishing to meet consumer demand


The origin of digital newsrooms stretches back to 1980 when the very first newspaper could be read online – albeit temporarily – however it wasn’t until much later that the publishing industry really began to embrace modern methods of creating and sharing content. 

Today, the vast majority of newspapers have a digital presence, with younger readers in particular demonstrating a clear preference for online news over more traditional formats.

Evolution of digital publishing

In the UK, the percentage of people who read online news, magazines and newspapers has risen from 20% in 2007 to 70% in 2020,1 and in the US, more than 8 in 10 Americans now access news via digital devices.2

We haven’t just changed how we consume content, how we produce it has evolved too, with global teams able to collaborate more closely and effectively than ever before thanks to incredible technological advances within the digital publishing sector. While some organisations continue to use bespoke CMS systems, many have made the move to enterprise-ready platforms, with the majority favouring WordPress according to recent research commissioned by Press Gazette. 

Online news through the years


The Columbus Dispatch became the first newspaper in the world that could be read online as part of an experimental project between Compuserve and Associated Press. This was later extended to the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and other AP members, however, the experiment ended in 1982.3


The Mosaic web browser – created by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications – was released, and quickly gained popularity due to being the very first browser to show both text and images on the same page together. Its popularity was overtaken by Netscape Navigator by 1995, at which point Mosaic was licensed by Microsoft to create Internet Explorer.4 The world’s first journalism site was launched by the University of Florida.5 Nando, an internet news service, was launched by the News & Observer newspaper in North Carolina.6


The Telegraph launched an online version of its newspaper – entitled the Electronic Telegraph – becoming the first UK publication to do so.7


The New York Times began publishing daily content at NYTimes.com8 and today has over 2.8 million digital-only subscribers.9


BBC Online was launched and went on to show the Queen’s Christmas speech online for the first time later that year.10


The Guardian newspaper launched its online version – Guardian Unlimited.11 RSS syndication was developed by Netscape, providing news feeds for subscribers.12 The Online News Association was formed.13 The Times and The Sunday Times created a digital presence.14


Associated Press launched AP Streaming News to give AP members easy access to a multimedia ‘real-time’ audio and video news service.15


El Pais, Spain’s most popular news publisher, became the first in Europe to charge for online content.16


Several news blogs were launched including The Huffington Post, Mashable and TechCrunch.


BBC News launched a blog for its editors.


The Times and The Sunday Times began charging for content access across their sites.17


The total of digital subscribers of The Financial Times surpassed its print subscribers.18


Paid digital subscriptions for The Times and Sunday Times overtook paid print subscriptions.19


The Telegraph reported more paying subscribers online than in print for the first time in its 164-year history.20


​​Digital surpassed print to become the second-largest advertising medium after TV.21

Looking ahead

Find out why WordPress is the leading choice for global newsrooms and enterprise organisations –  check out our white paper:

WordPress in the newsroom:
Scaling up editorial production


  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/286210/online-news-newspapers-and-magazine-consumption-in-great-britain/ 
  2. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/01/12/more-than-eight-in-ten-americans-get-news-from-digital-devices/
  3. https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2014/today-in-media-history-compuserve-and-the-first-online-newspapers/ 
  4. http://www.ncsa.illinois.edu/enabling/mosaic 
  5. http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/about.htm 
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nando 
  7. https://corporate.telegraph.co.uk/about-us
  8. https://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/22/business/the-new-york-times-introduces-a-web-site.html
  9. https://www.statista.com/topics/994/newspapers/#dossierSummary__chapter4 
  10. https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/anniversaries/december/bbc-website-launched 
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/gnm-archive/2019/nov/06/from-new-media-to-guardian-unlimited-records-of-the-guardians-first-years-online 
  12. https://www.britannica.com/technology/RSS 
  13. https://journalists.org/about/
  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times 
  15. https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/streaming-news-to-your-site/s2/a551/ 
  16. https://wan-ifra.org/2021/07/how-spains-el-pais-drove-100000-digital-subscriptions-during-the-pandemic/
  17. https://pressgazette.co.uk/ten-years-of-the-times-digital-paywall-how-murdochs-big-gamble-paid-off/
  18. https://www.theverge.com/2012/8/1/3213020/financial-times-digital-subscribers 
  19. https://www.news.co.uk/2018/07/the-times-the-sunday-times-reach-500000-subscribers/ 
  20. https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/telegraph-marks-huge-milestone-as-number-of-digital-subscribers-surpasses-print/ 
  21. https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/technology/digital-surpasses-print-to-become-2nd-largest-advertising-medium-after-tv/1857934

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