An early leader in online journalism was The News Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. Steve Yelvington wrote on the Poynter Institute website about Nando, owned by The N&O, by saying "Nando evolved into the first serious, professional news site on the World Wide Web". It originated in the early 1990s as "N&O Land". Online news sources began to proliferate in the 1990s. Salon, founded in 1995, was an early leader of online-only reporting. In 2001 the American Journalism Review called Salon the Internet's "preeminent independent venue for journalism."
As of 2009, audiences for online journalism continue to grow. In 2008, for the first time, more Americans reported getting their national and international news from the internet, rather than newspapers. Young people aged 18 to 29 now primarily get their news via the Internet, according to a PEW Research Center report. Audiences to news sites continued to grow due to the launch of new news sites, continued investment in news online by conventional news organizations, and the continued growth in internet audiences overall. Sixty-five percent of youth now primarily access the news online.
Prior to 2008, the industry had hoped that publishing news online would prove lucrative enough to fund the costs of conventional newsgathering. In 2008, however, online advertising began to slow down, and little progress was made towards development of new business models. The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism describes its 2008 report on the State of the News Media, its sixth, as its bleakest ever. Despite the uncertainty, online journalists report expanding newsrooms. They believe advertising is likely to be the best revenue model supporting the production of online news.
Many news organizations based in other media also distribute news online, but the amount they use of the new medium varies. Some news organizations use the Web exclusively or as a secondary outlet for their content. The Online News Association, founded in 1999, is the largest organization representing online journalists, with more than 1,700 members whose principal livelihood involves gathering or producing news for digital presentation.
The Internet challenges traditional news organizations in several ways. Newspapers may lose classified advertising to websites, which are often targeted by interest instead of geography. These organizations are concerned about real and perceived loss of viewers and circulation to the Internet.