Political Animal


October 28, 2012 4:23 PM NYT, WSJ Paywalls taken down…

By Simon van Zuylen-Wood

Temporarily, so that readers can get news about Hurricane Sandy. Which raises a question: Is it unethical for non-subscribers who’ve eclipsed their monthly NYT reading limits to ingest news items not related to Sandy? I say yes. Thoughts?

Simon van Zuylen-Wood is a writer for Philadelphia Magazine.


  • Christopher Hobe Morrison on October 28, 2012 4:39 PM:

    Who needs them? I get RSS feeds from the National Hurricane Center, and the NWS sends out RSS feeds of all the alerts, warnings, and watches by county. They leave a lot to be desired, but why should I wait to have it all filtered by the pompous bullshit artists at the NYT and WSJ? Most of what they print is from the wire services anyway. If I want local stuff I will get a scanner.

  • esaud on October 28, 2012 4:42 PM:

    As a former electric utility middle manager who went out into the field for recovery efforts (Gloria, Bob, assorted ice and snow storms), if there is an edge in unfolding events, it goes to Democrats.

    Urban areas with lots of underground distribution, and dense populations are the first to recover. It is in the suburbs and rural areas, especially with lots of trees where recovery efforts take the longest.

    Also, people see the value in government, as long as FEMA does a good job, so it is important that Obama shows a high profile.

  • GregL on October 28, 2012 4:44 PM:

    The NYTs could just have placed the Sandy coverage in front of the paywall instead of dropping the paywall. Since they elected to do the latter, one can assume that they want people to taste the fullness of their content. I see nothing wrong with taking them up on that even though I live in Wisconsin.

  • rlsconrad on October 28, 2012 5:01 PM:

    poor wall street journal. I cry gentle capitalist tears into my lavender scented socialist hankie.

  • SFBay on October 28, 2012 5:04 PM:

    No it's not unethical. NYT took the paywall down knowing full well that all articles would be available to everyone. That is their decision. And as GregL said, they can put the coverage in front of the paywall.

    This is nothing more than a clever bit of advertizing. They are hoping you WILL look at the parts of the site you normally can't see and want to have it all the time. Like all companies, everything they do comes down to money.

  • Jeff Johnson on October 28, 2012 5:11 PM:

    I'm a NYT subscriber. Should I feel offended I pay for what others can now get temporarily for free? I certainly don't. That would be a small minded mean attitude.

    Is the NYT worried about it? Did they request people only read Sandy related content? If not, you are being ethically anal. Why not give readers during a time of stress some extra enjoyment? Perhaps this is a Times marketing strategy, which they hope will draw in more paying subscribers post storm. You are delving into a matter that is properly the Times business, and only the Times business.

    What is the incremental cost to the times if you read one kind of article or another? Zero. So are you stealing something from them? If the times servers could not handle the load, and they requested readers to limit consumption to needed storm info, you have a point. Absent such a request from the Times, you have no point.

    So what are you worried about? People not being under rigid and inflexible control at all times? See a doctor.

  • Charles Giacometti on October 28, 2012 5:12 PM:

    Your question is a joke, right?

  • Bob M on October 28, 2012 5:30 PM:

    Is it unethical for the NYT to trap non-subscribers with unethical choices?

  • Jonathan Harwell on October 28, 2012 5:33 PM:

    Of course not. They could just as easily make only the weather-related news free. A better question is what has happened to their level of readership since the paywall went up. I doubt I'm alone in having stopped visiting their homepage every day.

  • Sam on October 28, 2012 5:42 PM:

    Is it unethical to skirt the paywall by setting your browser so that it won't accept cookies from nytimes.com? I say no. What gives the NYTimes the right to store its data about ME on my own computer? If they want to restrict content access, there are certainly less intrusive and faulty ways of doing it.

  • abby on October 28, 2012 6:40 PM:

    You didn't get enough of this silly, self-involved navel gazing in college? Nothing at all better to think about right now?

  • thebewilderness on October 28, 2012 6:43 PM:

    Yes, of course it is.
    When you take a sample from the sample cart you are taking a sample. No charge.
    When you shoplift the product the sample cart is promoting because there isn't anyone guarding the merchandise you are shoplifting.
    "They asked for" by not guarding the merchandise is a bizarre and self serving justification for unethical behavior.

  • SFBay on October 28, 2012 7:50 PM:

    NYT didn't put a sample out on the cart, they put the whole product out there. Why?

  • Dave Porter on October 28, 2012 8:41 PM:

    If the content is free, you are the product and not the consumer. NYT will be able to up its rates for its online
    product while it is the only game in town for advertisers.

  • Dave Porter on October 28, 2012 8:43 PM:

    Come to think of it, given how difficult it is going to be to distribute dead trees with ink on them, this may be their
    only way to generate or protect their own advertising income.

  • Just Dropping By on October 28, 2012 8:51 PM:

    WooHoo! I'm just going to keep hitting refresh on 538 for the next 48 hours!

  • mfw13 on October 28, 2012 10:28 PM:

    Doesn't matter for me....I'm in China, where the NYT has been blocked since reporting on the wealth of Wen Jiabao's family, and Businessweek has also been blocked since May for reporting on Xi Jinping's wealth.

  • rip on October 28, 2012 10:55 PM:

    Is it unethical to switch browsers to access the NY Times after you've maxed out on one already? Because it appears to reset the count.

  • Rabbler on October 28, 2012 11:18 PM:

    I think we need free HBO for the duration. This would be a perfect opportunity for socialist Obama to do a little nationalizing!

  • melior on October 29, 2012 3:00 AM:

    Is it unethical to perpetuate the ridiculous notion that anything I read on my own computer monitor by clicking on a link (or listen to by receiving on my radio or TV antenna) somehow might be my ethical failing if I don't avert my eyes from it? I say yes!
    Look, if you don't want people to read something without paying you for it -- don't launch it out into the internet! Or are the rules different for people's private Facebook photos, say, than for the NYT? Cause that's certainly the rules they've set for the rest of us.

  • Kathy on October 29, 2012 6:56 AM:

    Don't be a child, Simon.

  • Clevergirl on October 29, 2012 8:06 AM:

    Once I reach my limit, I pay them indirectly by searching for the story on Google and clicking thru there. The NY Times will benefit by being the go to place for people's storm news, and by people wondering about the site to look at everything else the site can offer. It's all good.

  • Clevergirl on October 29, 2012 8:10 AM:

    Completely ethical.

    When the wall is up and once I reach my limit, I pay them indirectly by searching for the story on Google and clicking thru there. With the wall down, the NY Times will benefit long term by being the go to place for people's storm news and by people wandering about the site to look at everything else the site can offer. It's all good.

  • Anonymous on October 29, 2012 10:58 AM:

    1) Google "nytclean" and drag the button to your toolbar; when the paywall closes, click the button.

    2) copy the headline and paste it into Google. The first result will be your article, unfirewalled.

    3) The URL will have ".html?" and a string of apparently random letters. Delete everything to the right of .html.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2012 12:35 PM:

    I'll never give the NYT another penny until the fake-balance, false-equivalence, etc. is gone.

    For you other posters exposing ways to defeat the paywall,
    1) there's easier ways, and
    2) you're just making it more likely they'll make it tougher to break the firewall, so you're not being very smart by advertising your small amount of brilliance.

    Knock it off.

  • cwolf on October 29, 2012 12:40 PM:

    There is nothing of any value in the NYT that can't be had free at many other sites.
    So unless you are in love with MoDo the Times is redundant.

  • J on October 29, 2012 1:05 PM:

    No moral problem. They could have simply made the Hurricane Sandy stories available in front of the paywall. Instead, they made the whole paper available. Anything online that is available without an attempt to password can be viewed without a moral problem regardless of who the openness is intended to benefit, IMHO.