January 22, 2016

Twenty years ago, The New York Times launched NYTimes.com, making its journalism available to subscribers “the night before they receive the physical newspaper,” Rich Meislin, senior editor of information and technology, told staff in a memo on Jan. 22, 1996.

Needless to say, it would also engage the part of our mandate concerning giving the newspaper experience in the world of electronic media.

You can explore that memo, the print story announcing the new site and how the site looked at its infancy with a digital time capsule out Friday. From a press release:

The time capsule highlights major digital milestones including our first photo essay online and coverage of the death of Princess Diana, which brought new users to the site seeking breaking news. It also looks forward, with audio reflections from Mark Thompson, president and chief executive officer, on The Times’s relentless spirit of innovation.

Here are a few good highlights:

  • The Times held a two-month long slogan contest in search of the right tone for the new site. More than 8,000 people entered. The winner — the Times’ print slogan.

One winner, Dr. Fred A. Ringwald of University Park, Pa., wrote, “It’s a splendid slogan, and fits the mission of The New York Times, no matter what medium it comes in these days. Why do you need a new one?” Another, Richard Olsen of Brooklyn, wrote, “Keep `All the News That’s Fit to Print.’ That’s The Times. Enough Said.” A third winner, Nigel Euling of Seattle, warned, “Don’t change it! If you do, history will judge you poorly,” while a fourth, Karen Pike Davis of Easton, Pa., asked: “Why tamper with genius? The slogan says it all and has been saying it for 100 years. Why change now?”

— The site’s first redesign came in 1998. At the time, it had 6.51 million registered users.

— 2001 brought the next redesign. By that time, there were 17 million registered users.

— The Times launched its first blog in 2006. It focused on the World Cup.

— The mobile site launched in 2006.

NYTimes.com on Nov. 21, 1996. The site officially launched that January. (Image from A History of NYTimes.com)

NYTimes.com on Nov. 21, 1996. The site officially launched that January. (Image from A History of NYTimes.com)

Correction: An earlier version of this story got the date wrong in the above image of nyt.com. It has been corrected.

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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