US newspapers in the Google time tunnel: Part 1

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 7 October 2008

Yesterday I published some screenshots of the 2001 versions of UK newspaper websites, as linked to by Google's newly re-available 2001 index.

Google 2001

At the same time as doing my research on UK newspaper success with social media, I was also looking at the social media success of a range of US newspapers. I thought it might be fun to peer back through the Google time tunnel and see how 25 American newspapers looked and ranked online in 2001.

Arizona Republic

The Arizona Republic ranked at #1 for their newspaper name on Google in 2001, but sadly the site is blocked from the Wayback Machine, so you can't see how it used to look.

Google Arizona Republic results

Mind you, looking at the 2001 results I did spot a way Russia could infuriate the West even more than by supporting illegal breakaway regions like South Ossetia and Abkhazia - they could throw their weight behind the Baja Arizona Republic, which also ranked highly for the term 'Arizona Republic' back then.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In 2008 the online incarnation of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution can be found at ajc.com. In 2001 however, the top ranking result for their name was the rather more unwieldy www.accessatlanta.com/partners/ajc. The results also included the separate ajcclassifieds.com site, and 'The Stacks' - an "archive of staff-written and other selected articles from 1985 to the present."

Google results for Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Unlike the Arizona Republic, you can peek back at the 2001 edition of the Journal-Constitution.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2001

Boston Globe

The Boston Globe was as sure of their URL identity then - boston.com - as it is today. It doesn't look as if the logo has changed though.

Boston Globe in 2001

Chicago Sun Times

In Google's January 2001 index, it is the Chicago Sun-Times' election coverage that was ranked #1, rather than the homepage.

Google Sun-Times results

Sun-Times election results

Their regular site has a presence in the 2001 index as well, and on the Wayback Machine.

Suntimes 2001

Chicago Tribune

Another Chicago paper, the Tribune, also appears in the 2001 Google index.

Chicago Tribune in 2001

The Chicago Tribune out-ranked the Sun-Times in 2001 for the keyword "chicago". It comes in at #16 in Google's vintage index, compared to the Sun-Times at #45. In the intervening years, this ranking lead has increased. If you search Google for "chicago" today, the Tribune is at #10, whilst the Sun-Times has sunk to #65.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is one of the few newspapers that did not rank in first place for its name in 2001. Instead, Google ranks the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in top spot.

Google Cleveland results

In 2001, Plain Dealer content was split between two domains: cleveland.com and plaindealer.com.

Plain Dealer page in 2001

These days, the latter URL is just a corporate portal page.

Dallas Morning News

A 2001-era search for the Dallas Morning News brings back the dallasnews.com site at #1. Like many of the newspapers in this survey, the coverage captured by the Internet Archive is focused on news in Afghanistan rather than local news.

Dallas Morning News in 2001

Detroit Free Press

A search for the Detroit Free Press back in 2001 showed that they were already employing the freep.com online branding.

Detroit Free Press in 2001

It is noticeable though that in 2001 the branding of the paper was just as strong as the online identity, whereas the current design sees freep.com take centre stage.

Freep.com in 2008

Houston Chronicle

The Houston Chronicle easily ranked on Google for their name in 2001, and the Wayback Machine has a very good copy of one of their front pages from that time.

Houston Chrnoicle in 2001

Los Angeles Times

The LA Times is blessed with a significant web presence these days, but the version exposed by Google's 2001 index is one of the more primitive web designs on display.

The LA Times in 2001

In 2001 the LA Times was also having problems with the Google index - the science section and comment sections were ranked #1 and #2 by the search engine, rather than the homepage.

Google 2001 results for the LA Times

Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Star Tribune was in top spot for their name in 2001, and the copy of the site on the Internet Archive shows that as far back as 2001 they were running audio content on their site, indicated by icons that preceded the relevant story.

Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2001

Next...

Tomorrow I'll be looking at some more US newspapers through the Google time tunnel, starting with some of the New York press.

4 Comments

Hey mate, love the blog but I have to ask: what do we draw out of this? Know what I mean? You are doing research on social media success for various UK newspapers but how applicable is an index 7 years old?

Not having a go, just feel like maybe I'm missing something here.

Cheers
Mike

There's no great point to be drawn here Mike, I just thought Google's 2001 index was a good excuse to have a look around and remind ourselves how online news looked 7 years ago.

That's a really interesting study. I've gone back a look through a lot of keywords as well. Amazing how far we've come!

Yeah when you turn back all those years and see it really looks amazing. Sometimes going down the memory lane is an good and interesting idea.

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