The Baltimore Sun has been struggling recently. Heck, so has the entire newspaper industry.
In order to prop up flagging profits, the Sun has resorted to insane ads and putting ads behind a paywall. But during this weekend’s historic blizzard, they tried another tack: They took down the paywall and let curious readers browse as many articles as possible without paying.
“I think the ultimate mission for us is to inform the public in times of crisis,” Matt Bracken, director of audience engagement and development, told Poynter. “And this weekend’s weather certainly qualified in our opinion. It was a pretty easy decision for our staff to make.”
This strategy (which the Washington Post also adopted) had two benefits. It allowed readers to get up-to-date information on an on-going emergency situation without worrying about how to ration their pageviews — and it also meant that people stuck at home with nothing to do spent more time than usual reading the news; during the storm, pageviews were up 67 percent. The Sun also suspended the paywall during the Freddie Gray protests in April, and set a new traffic record in the process.