The definitive guide to getting around newspaper paywalls, adwalls, and annoying registration forms
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 to bypass 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:
1. 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.
2. 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 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, Financial Times, Bloomberg, and many regional papers.
Let’s use the following article as an example:
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.
4. 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 #3.
Let’s use a Business Insider article which is physically obscured by an adwall:
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 on internet tips and tricks! Leave a comment or message me if you have any questions.
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