My wife is not the biggest fan of my media consumption habits — I’m a total news junkie. Every morning begins with a check of my email and texts, a quick scan of breaking news from the various Twitter accounts I follow, scrolling through some anecdotal (sometimes scientific) stories on reddit — and finally, plowing through the dozens of newsletters and news aggregating apps.
But over the past few years, a lot of media outlets have made accessing their content online more difficult for consumers. As Americans have continued to move away from consuming news via traditional newspapers and magazines to getting everything online and via digital apps, media companies have had to find ways to generate new revenue streams. And in many cases, this means limiting access to online articles unless you pay a subscription fee.
Here are a few ways that websites will restrict access to content:
- Cropping the story
- ‘Metering’ your access: allowing you to read a specific number of articles per month or per year
- Block you from accessing the site’s content altogether
This method of restricting access is known as a “paywall.”
What is a paywall and how can you get around it?
Hard paywalls either completely restrict your access to articles or show you just a snippet.
The Wall Street Journal
These paywalls are typically in the form of meters — you get to read a certain number of articles or blog posts before your access is restricted.
Harvard Business Review
There are also combination paywalls: websites employing this code will allow you to read some content for free but block you from accessing their “premium content.”
The 3 ways to hack online paywalls
1. Google the headline
Use this trick to get around hard paywalls.
This is probably one of the easiest methods. While some sites, like The Wall Street Journal, ended their Google “first click-free feature,” there are still several other publications that allow you to utilize this loophole.
1. Find the article headline, highlight it, and then either copy it to your clipboard (cmd/ctrl + C or right-click and select “copy”) or select the option to “search Google” (available on most browsers).
2. If you chose to copy the headline to your clipboard, navigate your browser to http://www.google.com and paste the headline into the search box (the other method will automatically take you to Google’s search page).
3. Scroll down the search page a bit to find the article you want and then click on the link — you should now have access to the article for free.
1. If the method above takes you to a paywall, simply right-click on the link while you are on the search page and select “Open in Incognito Window” (or your browser’s equivalent).
2. If you successfully access the site on the first attempt, you will not be able to navigate away from the story and view it again (so don’t press the back button).
2. Go “undercover”
You can use these techniques on both soft and hard paywalls, but they are best deployed when publications are “metering” your access — because these methods trick the website into believing you are a new reader.
1. Delete your cookies
2. Visit the website in “Incognito Mode” or “Private Browsing” — you’ll know when you’re in “private” mode if you browser turns gray and/or you see the spy character.
3. Use a different browser. Pretty simple — if you’re primary browser is Chrome, switch to Firefox or IE.
3. Use Chrome extensions
NOTE: this specific method only works with Chrome, and as always, please use caution when installing any software. While this extension is safe to use for now, vulnerabilities do occur in all systems — so make sure an extension is secure before you install it.
Extensions are super awesome — they drastically increase your efficiency by automating tasks you’d have to do manually.
The first extension to add is “Bypass Paywalls.” This extension combines steps 1 (Google) and 2 (Clear Cookies) by clearing your local storage and cookies on each visit and then setting the referer to “http://www.google.com/.”
Full List of Supported Sites:
- The Age
- The Australian
- Baltimore Sun
- Crain’s Chicago Business
- Chicago Tribune
- Daily Press
- The Economist
- Financial Times
- Hartford Courant
- Harvard Business Review
- Los Angeles Times
- The Morning Call
- The Nation
- The New York Times
- The New Yorker
- The Seattle Times
- The Sydney Morning Herald
- The Telegraph
- The Washington Post
- The Wall Street Journal
- Unwanted adware
- Malware domains
- Trackers (store your cookies and follow you throughout the internet)
- Shadyware (especially popups)
Some websites won’t play nice with this extension because you are effectively “breaking” or blocking the code from running. So if you notice issues, just disable the extension.