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.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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