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Boston's Globe Lowers Paywall for City's Embrace

Stocks in this article: NYT GCI MNI WPO FB

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The media was on full display Monday in the frantic scramble for reliable information about the terrible bomb attack on the streets of Boston.

Twitter and Facebook (FB) provided anecdotes but traditional news outlets - newspapers and TV news, networks and cable - were sources of dependable information. Numbers of injured and dead were tossed around, but the hometown Boston Globe remained careful and accurate.

The Globe's Web site was initially overwhelmed by the surge in traffic but quickly recovered. Boston's largest newspaper took down its paywall soon after the traffic spike as the need for news, in some cases a desperate need, became more pressing. Shortly after the attacks on Monday, the Globe suspended the automatic registration requests that readers are required to fill out after reaching a certain number of page views. ( The New York Times did the same while The Wall Street Journal has allowed its Boston content to run for free.)

Clearly, this was an extraordinary event, and the need to inform the public far outweighed the company quest to offset declining advertising sales with online subscribers. The Globe started charging for online access in 2011.

For The Globe, and for newspapers generally, the popular rush to the local rag's Web site punctuated a theme publishers have been asserting for years: newspapers serve the public interest. Such pronouncements, though, have done little to prevent readers and advertisers from migrating elsewhere for their news and entertainment.

The Globe is going through an uncertain time. Its owner, The New York Times Company (NYT), said in February that the newspaper is for sale and hired Evercore Partners to pursue a buyer. Apart from its proximity to New York, The Globe has never been a natural complement to the Times or its flagship newspaper. The two newsrooms kept their distance, and the cost savings of the combination weren't as fruitful as hoped. The Times paid $1.4 billion for The Globe and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette of central Massachusetts in 1993, yet were forced by the industry's near implosion to write down the value of that unit by $814 million in 2007. The sting is still being felt.

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