In the wake of the New York Times locking its articles up even more tightly, another journalistic institution—The New Republic—is letting its own go free (mostly). The move is thanks in large part, we suspect, to billionaire and Facebook founder Chris Hughes, who recently purchased the magazine. The staff notes in a post today:
We are pleased to announce that, as of today, all articles on the TNR website are now accessible free of charge to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. This decision is in line with our desire to enable new readers to discover and share the best of what TNR’s writers produce each day. While readers will continue to need to subscribe in order to read our content in print or on tablet devices, access to recent TNR content on the web will be free.
It’s just under two years since TNR implemented the paywall. A former staffer tells us that “it was unpopular with writers at the time.” Articles were essentially “doomed to obscurity”—even as more people subscribed to read them—because sharing on larger platforms wasn’t possible.
It’s not exactly a surprise that an internet sharing pioneer like Hughes is willing to forgo subscriptions and money in order to get more people reading the magazine. Sharing has become the currency of the Internet, and it’s the thing that makes reporting-for-cheap worthwhile for a lot of writers. We imagine that taking down the paywall will appeal to younger writers who might otherwise pass on working for TNR. And as long as Hughes has money to burn, this sounds like a pretty good idea to us.