As Hurricane Sandy made its turn toward the Northeast, editors at the York Daily Record/Sunday News wanted to ensure that everyone would have unfettered access to the information we would produce on this dangerous event.
Normally, we require readers to subscribe to our online services in order to get unlimited access. But at a time when people might frantically search for news of loved ones, for public safety announcements or for the all-clear, we did not want anyone to be slowed by this so-called pay wall.
That’s why we ensured that all of our storm coverage would be available at no cost throughout the crisis.
Now that the crisis has passed, we will resume normal operations. Storm coverage posted from this point forward will once again require a subscription. All coverage posted before then will remain free. You can see the complete body our our work on Hurricane Sandy at ydr.com/alerts
Managing this online subscription plan is something new to us and we want to be flexible as we find our way with it. Traditionally, newspapers charged for each day’s paper, even if there was a crisis. I am sure some paper in Honolulu published after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and I am sure they charged the same as always for that important news. In fact, they likely ran many extra copies off the press and sold extras.
But a newspaper could not immediately alert everyone on the planet that the island was under attack. Today we can do that, and we have to consider how to adapt our business model to such new realities.
We provide lots of information for free on other platforms. We use Facebook, Twitter, email and text alerts, iPad and mobile apps and we do not charge for content offered there.
I would like to know your thoughts on this matter. How can we best serve this community with immediate, credible, high-quality content? We must thrive as a business if we are to dedicate a staff of 70 journalists to such coverage. Is it appropriate to ask people to pay 99 cents to read four weeks’ worth of crisis coverage? (That is our introductory offer for an online subscription.)
What do you think?