Newspaper paywalls can’t stand up to Hurricane Irene

As East coast residents held their breath awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irene last weekend, The New York Times announced via Twitter that it would offer all its digital storm-related content for free. (The paper introduced a paywall in March, limiting nonsubscribers to 20 free online articles per month.) Newsday, a Long Island paper, did the same. The gesture reminds us of Lonely Planet’s decision to give select digital travel guides away for free during the massive air travel disruptions caused by Mount Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption in spring 2010.

During times of distress and uncertainty, these simple acts of public service can go a long way in creating goodwill while reminding those who may scoff at the idea of paying for digital content that shelling out a few bucks provides access to information you need, whenever you need it.

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