I think it's ridiculous to assume that the New York Times removed their paywall (even partially) because it would help attract new subscribers. You're right, Paul, it would not have been "malintent" but Mathew's comments were definitely sensationalist, in my (humble and largely ignorant) opinion.
I still don't understand why that's a ridiculous thing to suggest, Josh -- or controversial. Obviously public interest is part of the decision, but I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that there would be business principles at work as well -- the NYT is a business, isn't it? That's why there's a paywall in the first place. Raju Narisetti more or less agreed the WSJ had a mix of motives, why not the NYT? If storm news is a) in the public interest and b) likely commoditized and therefore of less value behind a paywall and c) might act as a marketing vehicle for the paper, then it makes sense to set it free. I don't see why ascribing partially business-driven motives to a business is so unreasonable.