Free articles from subscription news websites?

Chris McCullough
Sep 13, 2018 · 2 min read

When you visit your limit of monthly Medium articles the website will yell at you and ask you to subscribe. I do not feel like I would get my money’s worth, so I choose not to pay. This isn’t because I’m cheap; it’s because I end up looking at the pictures, ignoring the whole article, and then closing the page. But for a lot of these sites, if I hit the paywall and actually wanted to read the article, it’s probably still available under all the permanent pop ups.

So far I have counted 4 well-known subscription-based news websites that accidentally allows users to get around the paywall. I’m not sure if this is something that is well known, so I’m going to leave the names of the news outlets out of this article. Also, the devs that built these sites with this issue, I do not think the average user is this clever so I do not blame you for overlooking this. Honestly, I probably would have done this too until someone pointed it out.

How to do it:

  1. Hit the paywall
  2. Open the developer tools and head to the network tab
  3. Reload the page so you have a fresh list of responses
  4. Right click the first response and save it as an HTML file

Now you can open up that HTML file in your browser and have the whole article to yourself. This works because the entire article is being sent to you, and the site isn’t checking if you hit the paywall until afterwards. When the page loads it fires off some JS and covers up or deletes most of the article before you get the chance to read. When you run that page locally many of the requests that ask for the JS fail because the requests point to relative urls, the JS never gets ran, and the article remains uncovered.

This does not work on only a couple sites in the handful that I tested, like Medium for example. With my luck, developers that did leave the problem open will notice this article and fix it before anybody gets the chance to read for free.

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