Culture House Daily

The Spectator website through the ages

14 March 2014

How has The Spectator weathered the first 25 years of the web? In Simon Courtauld’s excellent history of this magazine To Convey Intelligence 1928-1998, he explains how the magazine’s website was born under the direction of Kimberly Fortier:

‘Under Fortier’s influence, The Spectator’s Doughty Street house adopted a new look in 1998, with its 18th-century front door and fanlight painted bright red and, at its summer party to celebrate its 170th anniversary, a huge red bow festooned the facade. On the same evening lights were beamed on to the draped bookshelves of the literary editor’s office, announcing that The Spectator now had its own website on the Internet. It was fast becoming the very model of a modern weekly magazine’

And thanks to the Internet Archive, here is the first ever Spectator website in all of its 1998 glory. It was mostly a promotional site for the print magazine, with a few familiar faces on the ‘About Us’ page:


The same style remained until 2001, when an expanded operation replicated the Contents page of the print magazine, with the articles available to read to anyone:


2004 saw another redesign, taking the website more assuredly into the twenty-first century — there is even a rudimentary paywall making some content only to subscribers:


A year later in 2005, the first web-only content goes live with the ‘Spectator Live’ section, in this shot revealing the results of a Michael Howard cabinet shuffle:



Another redesign took place the next year in 2006, bringing the website more in line with the style of the print magazine at the time:


In 2007, our now political editor James Forsyth launched the Coffee House blog, which you can see promoted on the home page. It continues in the same form to this day, seven years later:


It was time for a major redesign in 2008, which lasted longer than most. By this point, there were more blogs on the site, including the Americano blog reporting on that year’s Presidential election:


Some more changes in 2009, with a more accessible home page promoting content from different areas on the site:


This same design remained online until 2010, where some more tweaks were made to the layout:


Then in 2012, a major redesign and reorganisation was undertaken, with a new backend system making it quicker and easier to expand and run the site:


And that brings us to the current day. Instead of the leaps and bounds in the past, we’re continuing to improve the website through evolution, with the last batch of changes going live in January this year. I’m sure that in another 16 years, The Spectator’s website will look entirely different to what you’re reading today, which will look just as old fashioned as the 1998 designs do in 2014.

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  • salieri

    “there was more blogs”: indeed there was.
    “The Spectator’s website will look entirely different to what you’re reading today”: yes, it might even be written in English.
    “to improve the website through evolution”: and evolution must be a Good Thing – progressive, one might say.

    First, The Spectator hired illiterates.
    Then it dropped proof-readers.
    Then (smugly ignorant of any other) it embraced ‘popular culture’, starting with the insufferably pretentious ‘Night & Day’.
    Then it side-lined the (many) bloggers who had something to say, and knew how to say it.
    Then it embraced Disqus, so that the only criterion – the highest number of ticks – promoted inadequate and intemperate attention-seekers.
    And then a lot of very nasty people surfaced, hijacked The Wall, disrupted civilised debate and vilified anyone who disagreed with them.

    Bye-bye, beloved Speccie.

  • ADW

    Gosh I remember clive davis. No hits to speak of, and comments always hovering around the zero mark. He who would never be missed …

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