A paywall is a method of restricting access to content via a paid subscription. Beginning in the mid-2010s, newspapers started implementing paywalls on their websites as a way to increase revenue after years of decline in paid print readership and advertising revenue. In academics, research papers are often subject to a paywall and are available via academic libraries that subscribe.
Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales has stated that he “would rather write [an opinion piece] where it is going to be read”, declaring that “putting opinion pieces behind paywalls [makes] no sense.” Without easy access to both read and share insights and opinions, the online news platform loses an essential characteristic of democratic exchange.
This article is not meant to debate the commodification of information. If you use a news-source regularly for work or personal use, and derive significant value from it, you should pay for it. But in an increasingly fragmented media landscape, it is not economically feasible for a casual reader to pay for a costly monthly or yearly subscription to dozens of news sites.
Below is a (nearly) comprehensive guide to the various methods allowing you get around paywalls, pop-ups, and adwalls, that are common on many news sites. There will always be one or two articles that you cannot access without a purchase or compromising your personal information, but you should be able to access at least 95% of news content for free using these tricks. These techniques will help you get around paywalls for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, and more, without requiring username and password logins credentials or illegal hacking.
One last note before you start hacking paywalls. If you only need access to these sites for a brief period of time, you may be better off taking advantage of the free trial periods many publications offer and cancelling your subscription before it renews:
- Wall Street Journal-14 Day Free Trial
- The New York Times-14 Day Free Trial
- The Economist-30 Day Free Trial
- TIME Magazine-30 Day Free Trial
- The Washington Post-14 Day Free Trial
How to Get Around Almost any Paywall Easily (UPDATED 12/2/19 with new WSJ Bypass)
I vowed to find a way around their paywall after they sent a cease and desist to Outline (still an amazing resource for many news sites). It took me a few tries to find something that works, but here you go:
1. Use The Following Firefox Browser Add-on
Note: this add-on reportedly works on these other sites as well (although I have not tested all of them):
Baltimore Sun (baltimoresun.com)
Chemical & Engineering News (cen.acs.org)
Central Western Daily (centralwesterndaily.com.au)
Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.com)
Crain’s Chicago Business (chicagobusiness.com)
Corriere Della Sera (corriere.it)
Daily Press (dailypress.com)
Denver Post (denverpost.com)
De Tijd (tijd.be)
de Volkskrant (volkskrant.nl)
The Economist (economist.com)
Financial Times (ft.com)
Foreign Policy (foreignpolicy.com)
Haaretz (haaretz.co.il / haaretz.com)
Hartford Courant (courant.com)
Harvard Business Review (hbr.org)
Investors Chronicle (investorschronicle.co.uk)
Irish Times (irishtimes.com)
La Repubblica (repubblica.it)
Le Temps (letemps.ch)
Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)
MIT Technology Review (technologyreview.com)
Mountain View Voice (mv-voice.com)
National Post (nationalpost.com)
New Statesman (newstatesman.com)
New York Magazine (nymag.com)
Nikkei Asian Review (asia.nikkei.com)
Orange County Register (ocregister.com)
Orlando Sentinel (orlandosentinel.com)
Palo Alto Online (paloaltoonline.com)
Tech in Asia (techinasia.com)
The Advocate (theadvocate.com.au)
The Age (theage.com.au)
The Australian (theaustralian.com.au)
The Australian Financial Review (afr.com)
The Boston Globe (bostonglobe.com)
The Globe and Mail (theglobeandmail.com)
The Herald (theherald.com.au)
The Japan Times (japantimes.co.jp)
The Mercury News (mercurynews.com)
The Morning Call (mcall.com)
The Nation (thenation.com)
The New York Times (nytimes.com)
The New Yorker (newyorker.com)
The News-Gazette (news-gazette.com)
The Saturday Paper (thesaturdaypaper.com.au)
The Spectator (spectator.co.uk)
The Business Journals (bizjournals.com)
The Seattle Times (seattletimes.com)
The Sydney Morning Herald (smh.com.au)
The Telegraph (telegraph.co.uk)
The Times (thetimes.co.uk)
The Toronto Star (thestar.com)
The Washington Post (washingtonpost.com)
The Wall Street Journal (wsj.com)
Towards Data Science (towardsdatascience.com)
Vanity Fair (vanityfair.com)
Bypass Paywalls for Firefox. Contribute to iamadamdev/bypass-paywalls-firefox development by creating an account on…
You should see a page like this:
If you scroll down, you will see the following:
Click the download link. Accept the Firefox permission popups that appear.
Customize. You can customize the browser extension. If you have other existing logins, make sure you deselect these news sites as this add-on will log you out of them.
You now should see the following icon at the top of your Firefox browser:
The add-on runs automatically, and it basically obscures the origin of your traffic so that you will appear to be a user from another country/region, where they still do not have a fully hardened paywall.
Your now unlocked article should look something like this:
Note: The promotional ads are a good thing and mean that your visits/origin are being correctly obscured.
You may have to close a few popup windows as seen below:
But you can simply click the “X” in the upper right hand corner of the popup. A small price to pay for unlimited access to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and many other great sites!
2. Open Article in a Private/Incognito Browser
Opening an article in a private/incognito browser and pasting the URL of the article you’re trying to read, is probably one of the simplest methods to gaining access to premium news sites.
In Chrome, that means selecting “File” and then “New Incognito Window”:
In Firefox/Safari, you press “New Private Window”:
This paywall bypass is typically effective on The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and the New York Times.
3. Use Outline to Extract Article Text
Outline is a free service for reading and annotating news articles. It does a good job of removing ads and other digital clutter. You can simply enter the URL of an article in the search bar on Outline’s home page:
Alternatively, you can insert “outline.com/” before a news article’s URL and Outline will usually be able to auto extract the text from the article, giving you not only the article blocked by a paywall but the article without additional ads.
Take for example the following article:
The Decline of Historical Thinking
Having ignored questions of economic inequality for decades, economists and other scholars have recently discovered a…
The New Yorker has a metered paywall, meaning you can only view a certain amount of articles per month. If you have exceeded this limit but still need access, Outline can be an extremely useful tool.
To bypass the New Yorker Paywall for this article, enter “outline.com/” before the article URL. This is essentially allowing you to run the article through Outline’s search function.
After quickly analyzing the article, Outline extracts the text giving you the article in full:
This paywall bypass is typically effective on The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal (no longer supported by Outline), Financial Times, Bloomberg, Telecompaper, and many regional papers.
Let’s use the following article as an example:
Halcyon raising its first fund - Washington Business Journal
D.C.-based Halcyon is raising its first fund. The 2-year-old nonprofit, an S&R Foundation spinout running programming…
When you click on this article, you will immediately be confronted with a paywall, regardless of your browsing history:
To get around the Bizjournal paywall, right click anywhere on the article page, and select “inspect” or “inspect element” from the menu.
Using the example article, after right clicking on the page and selecting “inspect element” you will see the following screen:
Next you want to click on the button typically labeled “customize developer tools” or “developer tools.” In the screenshot above, utilizing Firefox as our browser, this button is the “three dots” icon to the far right of the screen:
To access the Chrome DevTools (that’s what they call theirs) open a web page in Google Chrome, select the Chrome menu at the top-right of your browser and then select Tools > Developers Tools. Alternatively you can just right-click on any element on your web page and select Inspect Element.
This paywall bypass is typically effective on any of the Business Journal Publications (not limited to Washington, D.C.), Bloomberg, Foreign Policy, and many regional papers.
5. Delete the Adwall Layer
If you have tried the three methods described above, and still cannot access an article due to a paywall or adwall, there is another trick involving “Inspect Element” as described in Method #4.
Let’s use a Business Insider article which is physically obscured by an adwall:
Biotech, CBD drinks, and a hot vape company: Here's where all the top marijuana VCs are looking to…
Business Insider spoke with some of the top marijuana VCs about their strategies for 2019. The VCs, including…
If you do not have a subscription to Business Insider Prime, you will likely be confronted by the following paywall:
Following the same steps described in method #3 above, “right click” using your mouse on the article page, select the “ inspect element” option. You should see the following screen:
This trick to bypass Business Insider Prime’s paywall involves deleting the code on the page that generates the overlay that blocks the viewer from viewing an article. The cool thing about this trick is that it does not involve any illegal hacking. The information is being readily transmitted by Business Insider. But the article’s text is largely obscured by a large opaque adwall.
To delete this opaque layer, you need to identify the line(s) of code that trigger this element. This can be a little tricky depending upon the site. You can search in the HTML code for obvious key words related to ads, pop ups, or command prompts that trigger certain actions.
In the case of the sample Business Insider article, you need to find the CSS layer of code which is specifically identified by “.tp-modal-open”.
Select the code below <style type= “text/css”> (this is the adwall layer) and right click on it, choose “delete node” and close the “Inspect Element” toolbar. You can now view the article in its entirety:
This method requires a little knowledge of HTML to find the correct line(s) of code to delete or alter. Learning a little HTML can go a long way!
Thanks for reading this article! Leave a comment below if you have any questions and be sure to sign up for the Paywall Hacks newsletter!
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Casey Botticello is a partner at Black Edge Consulting. Black Edge Consulting is a strategic communications firm, specializing in online reputation management, digital marketing, and crisis management. Prior to founding Black Edge Consulting, he worked for BGR Group, a bipartisan lobbying and strategic communications firm.
Casey is the founder of the Cryptocurrency Alliance, an independent expenditure-only committee (Super PAC) dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain advocacy. He is also the editor of several Medium publications, including Medium Blogging Guide, Strategic Communications, K Street, and Escaping the 9 to 5. He is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. in Urban Studies.