Publishers drop paywall for Covid-19 related content

The effort to bring authentic news to a larger audience

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Covid-19 related news has been made free
Covid-19 related news has been made free

As Covid-19 pandemic is raging globally and the number of positive cases rise, it becomes important that authentic new flow about the ongoing health crisis continues. Taking this in consideration, major new publishers in the US have dropped their paywalls and made coronavirus coverage available to non-subscribers.

In the recent weeks, publishers from The Atlantic and The Philadelphia Inquirer to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News have made access to the coverage free.

“This is a public health emergency. If we have information that’s important for people to read, I’m not sure how ethical it would be to keep that from them if they didn’t give me their credit card,” Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, told Adweek last month. It’s the first time The Atlantic has moved coverage outside of the paywall since it went live last year.

Coverage on pandemic on Bloomberg.com, which created its digital membership program in 2018, is in front of the paywall “for free indefinitely,” a spokesperson told Adweek. The New York Times also has a page accessible to everyone without a subscription and a free coronavirus-centric newsletter.

The Los Angeles Times has a free landing page and newsletter while The Wall Street Journal’s teams are feeding a live page that is available to read without a subscription, according to Adweek.

Closer home, many Indian publishers too have made access to non-subscribers easy. Now, you can read 20 free articles a month on The Hindu instead of 10. “This is a part of our efforts to bring accurate information about the Covid-19 pandemic to a larger audience. We are also making available our most informative reports on the coronavirus as an eBook that you can download for free,” editor of The Hindu said on 20 March.

Business Standard too has dropped its paywall for the next four months, making all Covid-19 related stories free and accessible to all. “In view of the widespread dissemination of news on Covid-19 outbreak, Business Standard is making all such content free on its website for four months from the date of their publication,” the newspaper said on 23 March.

ET Prime, a members-only business storytelling platform from the house of The Economic Times, has also made coverage of Covid-19 free. The Morning Context, an independent subscription-only media platform that publishes one story each day, has suspended its regular coverage on 23 March for a week and ran a special series documenting and analysing the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic across tech, business and chaos. Every story was free to read.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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