Vanity Fair’s story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as well as his fear of contracting the disease caused quite the stir and a mini Twitter spat between the commander in chief and Condé Nast chief executive officer Roger Lynch at the beginning of last week.
But not everyone could access the article titled “He’s definitely melting down over this: Trump, germaphobe in chief, struggles to control the COVID-19 story” due to the glossy magazine’s online paywall.
That changed Friday, with Condé confirming to WWD that it made the decision to lift the paywalls on all COVID-19 stories at Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Wired to help keep readers informed as the situation develops further each hour. Other U.S.-based Condé publications, including Glamour, GQ and Teen Vogue, do not currently have paywalls.
The New Yorker introduced a metered paywall in 2014, while Wired and Vanity Fair followed suit in 2018 as a part of a wider industry trend to boost profits against a backdrop of falling advertising revenue in the media world.
The move to make COVID-19 content free follows Condé Nast Italy‘s announcement that it would offer digital copies of all its titles for free for the next three months, including Vogue, GQ, Wired, AD, La Cucina Italiana and Condé Nast Traveller.
“In a moment like this one, in which the priority is the national health, our mission continues to be the one to inform and entertain, and to do so in the correct way,” said Condé Nast Italia chief executive officer Fedele Usai at the time.
It also launched a Vanity Fair Italy issue dedicated to Milan, distributed for free in the Lombardy region, one of the most severely hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Back in the U.S. and outside of the Condé bubble, other magazine publishers have also been unlocking previously gated COVID-19 content.
Vox Media has made all New York Magazine stories about the deadly virus free, as well as on The Cut, Vulture, Intelligencer, Grub Street and The Strategist. The other Vox Media brands don’t have a paywall.
The Atlantic, the 162-year-old, political-focused magazine based out of Washington, D.C., which only introduced a paywall last year, is also doing the same for its readers.
Since the beginning of last week, it has made its most vital coronavirus coverage available to everyone, regardless of a subscription. In a note to readers, editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg said, “This moment demands the widest possible access to accurate reporting and rigorous analysis.”
A rep for The Atlantic told WWD that it is experiencing a massive surge of readers who are seeking the scientific clarity, government accountability and practical guidance our stories provide.
“We’re also seeing that people are eager to support — with a subscription — reporting that helps them navigate this uncommon moment,” she added.
Hearst Magazines did not respond to request for comment, but only has a paywall at Runner’s World. Meredith Corp., which owns People magazine and InStyle, does not use paywalls across any of its brands.
Some newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, moved to unlock some content earlier last week. The most important news and useful guidance on the global coronavirus outbreak is now available to all of the Times’ registered users, while its daily Coronavirus Briefing newsletter is also free.