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Why Newspapers Let Sandy Blow Paywalls Down

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With Hurricane Sandy happening, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times took down their paywalls.

Unbiased media is a public service. Still, it is one that we pay for. Whether it is a subscription to the local newspaper or access to cable on television, media isn't ever truly free. We pay for the devices to access media, we pay for connectivity and we pay for enhanced services.

The challenge is that the Internet isn't just a media channel, is it? With more and more connected people (think about mobile devices being more prevalent than safe drinking water and bank accounts), the Web is edging ever closer to a basic, public service than a container for YouTube videos or New York Times editorials. It's going to be a challenge to figure out how to get information to spread as widely as possible and with more and more countries claiming Internet access as a basic human right, it will be interesting to see how paywalls play out.

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Is the Internet a Basic Human Right or Just Another Media Channel?

There are two perspectives to the taking down of a paywall:

  • The altruist might think that the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and others are helping the masses with a public service. This enables all of us to have a certain quality control over the content we consume online about Hurricane Sandy (still, after nearly two decades of commercialization for the Internet, we trust traditional major publishers over the local blogger). We turn to these traditional and trusted sources for the most accurate and up-to-the-date information.
  • The cynic might see a very different picture. As more and more readers flock to websites like New York Times and Wall Street Journal, these businesses have the unique opportunity to capitalize on all of that attention by selling their digital advertising at a more premium price and -- at the same time -- they're able to serve a lot more of those ads.

Yes, newspapers (and other media channels) make a lot of advertising revenue when consumers are glued to their channels. This is one of the key factors that makes weather networks (both traditional and online) so financially successful. On top of that, tearing down the paywalls during times that are so highly trafficked enables these media outlets to offer a "free preview" of what consumers could be missing if they are not already subscribed. Online media properties are hoping that people get hooked and addicted to their service, so that when the paywalls go back up, they can capture more full-time subscribers.

It's A Soft Sale

There is nothing wrong with media companies building strong revenues and there is no doubt that the more precarious the news is, the more likelihood that there will be interest by the public. What makes this situation both unique and different is how easily technology enables information to be free and shareable or locked down and private. With a flick of the switch these massive publishers control access to information. We can debate the good and the bad of this, but what is important is how instant the access is... or isn't.

In a sense, media companies are newsjacking their own content in an attempt to build brand loyalty and a larger user base. Part of the dynamics of this shift also happens because technology enables systems like real-time bidding for advertisers.

So, while everyone is waiting in lines for non-perishables at Whole Foods and trying to stock up on flashlights and Doritos, advertisers are lining up to buy premium advertising rates, and the publishers are are opening up the funnel to serve as many of those ads as they digitally can to keep the revenue pumping in at a fast, furious and expensive pace.

Call it an advertising hurricane.

Mitch Joel is president of Twist Image -- an award-winning digital marketing agency. His first book, Six Pixels of Separation, named after his highly-successful blog and podcast of the same name is a business and marketing bestseller. His next book, CTRL ALT DEL, will be published in Spring 2013.

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HuffPost's Katie Bindley reports:

Like all the competitors who trained for the 2012 NYC Marathon, Hannah Vahaba will not be running the race this year. But she also will never forget her moment at the finish line. After traveling in from Atlanta, Vahaba picked up a marriage proposal in Central Park on Saturday without having to traverse the 26.2-mile course.

"This is my fiance," said Vahaba, 31, who had tears running down her face as she stood in Central Park where the race would have ended, just moments after Martin O'Donoghue had proposed.

marriage proposal cancelled nyc marathon

Photo by Damon Scheleur

Read the full story here.

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Be sure to check donation lists to see what items are needed. For example, at one Staten Island donation center, there is a critical need for batteries batteries batteries, candles, matches, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, pet food, baby supplies, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner. Clothing isn't needed as much at that center.

-Catharine Smith, HuffPost

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HuffPost's Tim Stenovec reports:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 48 people in New York when it battered the Northeast last week, frustrated residents in this corner of South Brooklyn are coping without electricity, heat and running water.

Read the full story here.

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Huntington Patch reports:

At a massive food distribution event at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Cuomo said power has been restored to 60 percent of the New York metropolitan area.

LIPA reported Saturday evening that 460,000 customers remained without power, down from more than 900,000 initially.

"I've warned the utility companies repeatedly they operate under a state charter, essentially," Cuomo said. "The utility companies are not happy with my warning and frankly, I don't care."

"The customers are not happy. The bill payers are not happy and the people without power are not happy," Cuomo said. "People are suffering. It is an issue of safety and if the utilities were not prepared we will hold them accountable."

Read the full story on Huntington Patch.

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Even as power returns to parts of the region assailed by Hurricane Sandy, millions of drivers seeking gasoline appear likely to face at least several more days of persistent shortages.

Read the full story here.

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HuffPost's Bianca Bosker:

On Saturday, 27-year-old Kate Frasca was manning Con Edison’s Twitter account, @ConEdison, responding to customers’ frustrations, questions, praise and criticism at an average clip of one tweet every six minutes.

Read the full story here.

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@ USACE_HQ : Roughly 600 M gallons of storm water infiltrated the nation’s busiest and oldest underground mass transit system... http://t.co/5jMXDhRc

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@ MikeBloomberg : If you would like to donate: visit http://t.co/9w8egqxD So far million has been contributed. 100% of funds go to #Recovery efforts.

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@ usNWSgov : Post #Sandy reminders: never touch a downed power line or anything touching one. Washing your hands prevents illness. #NWS #CDC

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@ NYCMayorsOffice : Volunteers Descend on Staten Island Neighborhood http://t.co/9aP3ggJN

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@ usNWSgov : Temps near the freezing mark expected tonight in areas affected by #Sandy. Those without power should prepare for a cold night. #NWS #nywx

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HuffPost's Ben Hallman reports:

For hours, giant waves crashed against Rockaway Beach, making a tremendous roar that could be heard up and down the 11-mile peninsula. "We kept constant watch on the boardwalk," said Diane Hudson, who lives on a high floor in a building about a half block from the Atlantic Ocean. "There was no water on it, so we thought we were OK."

Then she got a call from her boss, and close friend, David Gotthelf, who had just moved into a ground-floor apartment about a mile and a half away, on Beach 115th Street.

"The water is coming in," Hudson said Gotthelf told her. "What do I do? What do I do?"

Hudson looked out the window. In a matter of just a few minutes, the dark ocean had filled the parking lot. The boardwalk was gone. "Just get up on a high place," she said she told her friend. "Get on your bed."

That was the last time anyone talked to Gotthelf, who died Monday night or Tuesday morning, as far as Hudson knows.

Read the full story here.

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From The New York Times:

The L line from Manhattan to Brooklyn, however, remained flooded Saturday, from what Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, described as “wall to wall” inundation. The G train tunnel was flooded as well and is not expected to be back in service until later this week.'

Read the full story here.

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New Jersey voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy will be able to vote either electronically or by fax under an order issued by state officials on Saturday. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R), who is also New Jersey's secretary of state, said that voters can request a ballot be sent to them by their local county clerk via email or fax and then return it to the county the same way.

“This has been an extraordinary storm that has created unthinkable destruction across our state and we know many people have questions about how and where to cast their vote in Tuesday’s election," Guadagno said in a statement. "To help alleviate pressure on polling places, we encourage voters to either use electronic voting or the extended hours at county offices to cast their vote."

Guadagno also said that first responders in the state who are stationed away from their home can use the same method to vote.

Guadagno's decision follows previous orders to extend early voting hours at county elections offices statewide over the weekend. Gov. Chris Christie (R) indicated that the state was printing additional provisional ballots to allow those displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote in another location due to the storm.

-- John Celock, HuffPost

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Francis Ng was ready to run a marathon in New York City on Sunday but now the Toronto marathoner is instead looking to pitch in as the region recovers from this week's massive storm.

He's just one of the many Canadian runners who found out too late that the New York City Marathon was canceled, a race that draws more than 47,000 entrants.

Other athletes from Canada and many from around the world were already on the way to the Big Apple when the mayor's office cancelled one of the world's largest marathons. The 2011 edition of the marathon drew 1,200 Canadians and more than half of the race's participants are from outside of the United States.

Ng found out at at the airport departure lounge in Toronto that the race was canceled, so instead of running through the five boroughs on Sunday morning, he's now looking to make a trip up to the Bronx to volunteer at Pelham Bay Nature Center.

Read the full story here

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HuffPost’s Betsy Isaacson Reports:

Even with bicycle generators to charge phones, people in downtown Manhattan did not have working internet through Friday, Nov. 2, when power finally started to return to the grids there. The massive New York City power outage caused by Hurricane Sandy left thousands of New Yorkers without connection to the outside world, unable to check on relatives or secure information unless they walked or took a cab uptown, where the city had power.

With power now back on in Lower Manhattan, age-old ways of trading information will likely give way to texting and wireless connections. A copy of The New York Times will no longer be worth more than . Will New Yorkers miss it?

Read the full story here.

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HuffPost's Gerry Smith reports:

Heavy flooding this week at Verizon’s headquarters in lower Manhattan -- a critical node of its network infrastructure -- has begun to subside, but the company's effort to repair damaged network equipment and restore service to customers after Hurricane Sandy continues.

Read the full story here.

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HuffPost's Lynne Peeples reports:

Among the wreckage removed in Joplin, Mo., after the 2011 tornado was 2,600 tons of asbestos debris.

"That was a small community," said Linda Reinstein, president of the nonprofit Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. "Do the math, and we can recognize that we have a significant public health risk with Hurricane Sandy."

With wind and water damage caused by Sandy compromising the integrity of homes, schools and other buildings along much of the East Coast, health experts warn of increased risks of exposure to a variety of environmental toxins. One of the most worrisome, they say, is asbestos. Much of the compromised construction materials, including roofing, piping and insulation, could contain the microscopic mineral fibers. And while a person generally can't see it, smell it or taste it, they can breathe it and ingest it -- and the consequences can be severe.

Read the full story here.

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@ AP : BREAKING: New York City mayor says gas station shortages could take a few days to fully be resolved -RJJ

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New York Magazine has released a sneak peek of its latest cover, and wow is it stunning.

The editors explain the photo choice here:

A photograph taken by Iwan Baan on Wednesday night, showing the Island of Manhattan, half aglow and half in dark, was the clear choice, for the way it fit with the bigger story we have tried to tell here about a powerful city rendered powerless. We crammed back into the conference room, raced to finish our pages, and hoped, like other New Yorkers, that everyone would find the lights on when they got home.

See the pic here.

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Photos have begun to emerge comparing regions of the East Coast before and after the storm. Click here to view an interactive set of photos documenting the disturbing contrast.

before after photos

-Jake Bialer, HuffPost

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If you're out volunteering, share your stories with us. Use Twitter or Instagram and tag your photos #volunteersandy. Or you can submit your photos here.

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From The Associated Press:

The government says the public should stay away from free New York fuel stations until emergency responders get their gas.

Long lines of vehicles and pedestrians formed Saturday after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the U.S. Department of Defense was opening the mobile fuel stations in New York City and on suburban Long Island.

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Under orders from President Obama through FEMA, the Defense Logistics Agency and National Guard, there are new shipments of fuel available at five locations in New York area and at four locations in New Jersey.

In New York, fuel is available at the Queens Armory, 93-05 160th St., Jamaica, NY 11433; Bronx Armory, 10 West 195th St.,Bronx, NY 10468, Brooklyn Armory, 1579 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11225, the Staten Island/Elizabeth Armory, 321 Manor Rd., Staten Island, NY 10314, and the Freeport Armory, 63 Babylon Turnpike, Freeport NY 11520

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The New Jersey National Guard continues to deliver fuel to first responders, using nine tanker trucks provided by the Pennsylvania National Guard.

-- HuffPost's David Wood

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The owners of New Jersey's NJ Skateshop are desperately trying to collect winter clothes for neighbors without heat and members of their community who were left homeless by Hurricane Sandy, as a Nor'easter is forecast to hit the stricken area next week.

Co-owner Chris Nieratko reports two of the shop's four stores have electricity and have been stocked with power strips to allow residents to charge their phones and "pretend things were normal if only for a while." But many are ill-equipped to handle the incoming storm, he writes, and are already struggling: "Seeing your children cold and hungry is a feeling I never want any of you to experience."

Nieratko is asking for shipments of any winter clothing to the store's New Brunswick location, from which they will distribute to people in need:

I have no TV so I don't know what you're hearing on the news, but let me tell you, it's bad. Very bad..we've opened to the door to anyone with children. For days we ran generators sparingly because there was no gas...

There's another storm coming. Temperatures are dropping. Things are getting colder and even scarier. I am writing to you to ask for your help in clothing the displaced, homeless, under-dressed skaters in our community and their families...If you have anything warm (socks, sweatshirts, jackets, beanies, gloves, shoes, tees, ANYTHING) doesn't matter if it's 5 seasons ago...there are many in need from very young to very big XXL. Anything you can spare to help people stay warm will be appreciated.

Please send whatever you're able to (and there's no box too small) to our New Brunswick shop:

NJ TWO 29-B Easton Ave

New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Label the box HURRICANE RELIEF

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Photo of National Guard in South Beach, Staten Island, today.

hurricane

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Deer Park-North Babylon Park Patch reports:
Harold Jamison will make it to the Tanger Outlet center this afternoon to see Ben Affleck's "Argo."

"That movie is so good, I have to see it. I'm not missing it. It's about the 1979 Iran conflict and there is old TV video clips and everything," Jamison said.

But first, he was living his own 1970s-style flashback, a nearly three-hour wait to get gas in Deer Park in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Jamison was in line to get gas at the Deer Park Express station on the corner of Deer Park and Long Island avenues. He was still idling around the corner on Lake Avenue and E. 4th Street. In 90 minutes, he had moved two blocks.

Read the full story, and check out Mark's excellent "Sweet Daddy" jacket on Deer Park-North Babylon Park Patch.

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HuffPost's Sam Stein reports:

WASHINGTON -- Before hitting the campaign trail for his final swing before the election, President Barack Obama on Saturday stopped by the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington for a briefing on Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.

"We still have a long way to go to make sure that the people of New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and some of the surrounding areas get their basic needs taken care of and we get back to normalcy," Obama said, adding that the situation continues to be his "number one priority."

The president emphasized five components of recovery: getting power back on as quickly as possible, pumping water out of flooded areas, making sure people's basic needs are taken care of, debris removal and getting transportation systems up and running again.

"Our hearts continue to go out to those families who have been affected, who have actually lost loved ones," Obama said. "That's obviously heartbreaking. But I'm confident that we will continue to make progress as long as state and local and federal officials stay focused."/blockquote>

Read more here.

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OurAmazingPlanet reports:

With coastal communities in New York and New Jersey still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, the last thing the area needs is another storm. But that's exactly what it might get.

A nor'easter is predicted to potentially hit the East Coast next Wednesday (Nov. 7), and beach erosion experts are concerned about further damage to shorelines devastated by Sandy.

Read the full story here.

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