As news websites around the world move to embrace the practice of charging for content, an archive television news clip from 1981 has captured the first steps of the newspaper migration to the internet.

"Imagine sitting down with your morning coffee, turning on your home computer to read today's newspaper - well it's not as far-fetched as it may seem," introduces the anchor.

The story outlines the first, tentative attempts by San Francisco newspapers to load content into computer networks - allowing the small number of home computer users (2000 to 3000 in San Francisco at the time) to read news without needing to buy a paper.

"The newest form of electronic journalism lights up Mr Halloran's television with just about everything the Examiner prints in its regular edition - with the exception of pictures, ads and the comics."


Eight newspapers across the US were "in the network" at the time of the story going to air, with others lining up to join.

The footpath newspaper sellers job was safe for a while though - it took a full 2 hours to download the entire paper - all with a $5 hourly charge for the data connection compared to a 20 cent newspaper cover price.

See media writer John Drinnan's latest story on newspapers edging closer to online news subscriptions here.

In a perhaps prophetic comment about the impact of the internet on the newspaper publishing industry, David Cole, of the San Francisco Examiner admits in the clip: "We're not in it to make money".

In 2003 the Examiner changed from a big city broadsheet paper into a free community newspaper.