Wayport to Offer Free Digital Editions of NYT in 800 U.S. Locations

Wayport, a company that provides Wi-Fi wireless and wired Internet access in hotels, airports and McDonald’s restaurants, will offer free downloads of The New York Times‘ digital editions.

Wayport provides Wi-Fi (802.11b) wireless and broadband wired Internet access in 680 U.S. hotels (including those of the Four Seasons, Loews, Wyndham, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Doubletree and Embassy Suites); Wi-Fi in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle-Tacoma, San Jose, Austin, Oakland and Buffalo airports; and has a pilot program to delivery Wi-Fi access inside approximately 100 McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. Wayport says it has recorded more than 3 million customer connections.

Wayport said that free downloads of the NYT’s digital edition will be offered at all those locations. The offer is a cross-promotional program among Wayport, the NYT, and NewsStand, Inc. (which the NYT partially owns). Consumers who like the digital edition and purchase a subscription to it via the network will receive a free $25 Wayport prepaid connection card.

Wayport says that business travelers prefer to receive news and information on the road in the same familiar format as print editions. “Full-content digital media such as major newspapers like The New York Times are a great benefit for busy, time-pressed travelers,” said Dan Lowden, vice president of marketing for Wayport.

We think this deal is progress towards high-speed wireless delivery of newspapers directly to consumers — a necessity if newspapers are to survive during this century. Although this particular deal use only the short-range WiFi technologies and the relatively huge NewsStand digital edition files, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.