Texas Monthly is lifting the paywall on its website for the rest of 2020, editor in chief Dan Goodgame and president Scott Brown announced Wednesday afternoon.
“Texans have always connected over shared stories, and that’s more important than ever right now,” they announced on the website.
An email was also sent to inform readers that all site content is now free. Prior to this decision, Texas Monthly’s COVID-19 coverage was free to access for all readers.
Texas Monthly put up a metered paywall in February 2019.
Goodgame told Publishers Daily the pandemic and the collapse of oil prices brought “an opportunity [for Texas Monthly] to better serve a much larger group of readers and make ourselves valuable to them in this crisis.”
Texas Monthly, like a number of other publications, set a new traffic record in March. The site received almost two-times the readership compared to its previous record, for the coverage of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Texas Monthly increased its editorial staff by 50% over the last nine months, allowing the publication to produce more journalism on the website.
Goodgame says the hope is that Texas Monthly can “show [readers] what we have to offer,” and some will choose to subscribe once the paywall goes back up at the end of the year.
That includes its service journalism — such as nearby outdoor recreation options for Texans, or the best restaurants offering takeout and delivery — and long-form stories, such as the upcoming profile on Paulette Jiles, a bestselling Texas-based author, as well as coverage of COVID-19, the economy and the oil bust.
The idea to lift the paywall dovetailed with Texas Monthly changing the cover story for its May issue, Goodgame said. The magazine was supposed to carry a story about a fishing safari across Texas. But two weeks before going to print, the team decided to focus on COVID-19, and the slow response to the pandemic from Texas public officials.
The abrupt change was only possible because of Texas Monthly’s larger editorial staff, Goodgame said.
Current subscribers will get a “special gift” with the September print edition of Texas Monthly: a special issue about famed country music artist Willie Nelson.
“Your support enables us to produce great stories about the state we all love, and your enthusiasm drives our work every day,” reads the page dedicated to subscribers.
“We’ve decided that right now, when Texans are counting on digital content for information and entertainment, it’s important to make our website free to the general public."