Over the past years, various websites have started to put up paywalls. This is mainly to keep their platform sustainable. But if you’re cash-strapped, knowing how to get around news paywalls is surely a great life hack.
The likes of Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Financial Times are some of the prominent websites with paywalls. If you need to access their articles and can’t afford the fee, our methods here might be the solution you’re looking for.
Disclaimer: These methods may or may not work depending on the paywall structure of the website. Also, paywall websites always upgrade their technology, so these methods may only be effective for a specific period of time.
What are paywalls?
A paywall is a form of restriction website owners and digital publishers use. Basically, only those who pay the paywall or subscription fee can access the restricted article.
As it’s called, paywalls are like digital walls that guard a specific property. And unless you pay the ‘admission fee’, you can’t see what’s inside.
Most websites with paywalls offer a monthly subscription or one-time access fee to their readers. They do this to increase revenue and keep their platforms afloat.
Still, there are divided takes on whether paywalls are morally right or not. First, those who use it argue the financial aspect of keeping websites running. However, many counter this idea since paywalls do readers a big disservice as information becomes a commodity and will only be available to those who can afford it.
Paywalls started during the 2010s as a response to the declining readership in paid print platforms. Also, websites are experiencing a reduction in advertising revenue as ad blockers have been popular.
Overall, paywalls are monetization methods. Whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay.
3 types of paywalls
There are many types of paywalls being used across the internet nowadays. Still, there are three that are widely used by prominent websites: hard paywall, metered paywall, and freemium paywall. Below are the differences between the three:
A hard paywall is an extreme type. It only allows readers to access one or two premium articles before the paywall appears. Once you reached that limit, you’ll have to pay the subscription fee since the free access won’t reset the following month as with the metered type.
However, hard paywalls are a big risk because around 90% of readers will leave the site. Still, it works well on niche sites where the readers really like or are seeking the content being offered.
Metered paywalls are the most popular and are the ones being used by The New York Times and The Washington Post. It allows readers to access a certain number of free articles per month. For example, you can only read 10 premium articles on which the limit will reset in the succeeding month.
This way, websites can keep their readership active. In the long run, it can also entice readers to actually pay for the subscription.
Websites with freemium paywalls publish a mix of free articles and premium articles. The free articles can be read without a subscription, but there are advertisements on the page. Meanwhile, premium articles are the ones behind the paywall. The Guardian is one of the famous sites using this method.
Moreover, freemium paywalls are less intimidating for readers. Since there are free articles to choose from, the website will have lower bounce rates compared to those using hard paywalls.
How to get around news paywalls
Do you need to access an article behind a paywall but can’t afford the fee? If so, the following methods might be a useful temporary solution:
1. Use a browser tool
The most popular way to bypass paywalls is to use a browser add-on or extension. These tools are programmed to automatically disable paywalls, so readers can access the article behind it. However, this only works on several websites and not all.
A quick Google search of “bypass paywall tools” will give you a myriad of options. Feel free to try each one and see what works on the specific page you want to access.
Again, there’s no guarantee that this method will work for good as publishers and website owners are always cracking down on such tools.
2. Use Evernote’s Web Clipper
Another hack I personally use is the Web Clipper tool of Evernote. If you’re too lazy to look for paywall bypass tools, the Web Clipper is a convenient choice. It only took me a minute to access a paywalled article in The Washington Post, for example.
Basically, this is a solution for those who are browsing on computers or in web mode. First, install the Evernote app on your device. Make sure you’re logged in.
Next, install the Web Clipper browser extension or add-on. Once done, visit the page or article with the paywall that you want to access.
When the paywall pops up, click the Web Clipper tool on your browser and wait for it to process the article. After that, you can access the clipped article on your Evernote app in full and without the paywall.
The good thing is that you can access the article anytime since it’s already an offline copy on your Evernote app. You can also view the clipped article on your mobile phone using the iOS or Android Evernote app.
3. Utilize an annotation service
Another tool you can use is an annotation service. It’s somewhat similar to the Evernote method I discussed above.
You can use the popular tool called Outline by simply entering the page’s URL. Basically, this tool is used to help readers annotate web content and read without distractions. Due to this nature, Outline also bypasses paywalls inadvertently.
However, some paywalled websites blocked Outline, so the tool can’t access the website through its URL. To circumvent this, you can shorten the website link by using a tool like bitly or TinyURL. Once you have the shortened URL, paste it on Outline and the content will be pulled out.
4. Disable your browser cookies
Do you know how metered paywalls count your article access? Cookies.
Internet cookies are used to save information from every user’s session on a page. When it comes to paywalled websites, these cookies can be used to track the number of articles a specific user has accessed.
By disabling your internet cookies, websites won’t have the ability to track your session information. Therefore, you can bypass their paywall and read as many premium articles as you want.
However, this isn’t always the case with all metered paywalls. Many website owners are smart enough to detect the IP address of the user’s device and monitor their access from there. In this case, you can use the next method.
5. Use a VPN
If disabling your internet cookies isn’t enough to bypass a paywall, you can try using a VPN instead.
VPN or Virtual Private Network is a service that masks your IP address. This is done by redirecting your network to a different server. You can choose from servers in different countries and cities to stay anonymous online. And since you can use different IP addresses, you’ll be perceived as a different user on every switch.
This works on some websites with a paywall, but not all. You can pair this with other methods discussed here for higher success rates.
If you’re looking for the best VPN to use, consider the likes of Nord, PureVPN, ExpressVPN, and IPVanish.
6. Check Unpaywall first
If you’re trying to access scholarly journals, you might as well use Unpaywall. Take note that this isn’t really a form of cheating. Unpaywall is a legal tool that uses a database of full-text articles gathered from open sources.
Some of these articles may appear under a paywall on different websites. With this, you should consider checking Unpaywall first as the article might be there for free. This way, you no longer have to bypass any paywall.
8. Use a webpage to PDF tool
Lastly, you can use a PDF conversion tool to access an article behind a paywall. Basically, you’ll convert the page into a PDF file, so you can read it for free. Just remember that this method will remove the bells and whistles of the website, so you’re only left with bare text and no special formatting.
Any webpage to PDF tool can work here as long as it’s not blocked by the website. Also, some websites protect their content from these tools, so this method may or may not work depending on the page you’re trying to access.
9. Edit a few webpage elements
If you have basic knowledge of CSS and HTML, you can try editing the page element of a website to bypass its paywall. The goal here is to remove the paywall banner code that’s blocking the content.
However, this method only works if the paywall isn’t requiring the user to log in to a paid account to access the article. It’s a trial-and-error method, but still worth trying.
To do this, right-click on the last visible line of the article then choose ‘Inspect Element’. A console on the right side of your screen will open revealing the elements and codes of the page. You need to look for the part with labels like “paywall” or “subscribe” or “access”.
Delete this part and see if it will reveal the article. Don’t worry because the page will go back to normal once you hit refresh.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why are so many articles behind paywalls?
A: Websites have to put up paywalls on various articles to increase their revenue. It’s a form of monetization aside from running ads and accepting sponsored posts. In some cases, the website will still have free articles or the number of articles you can read per week for free.
Q: Do paywalls help journalists?
A: Paywalls can help journalists since it provides income to the website or publisher. It keeps journalists employed, but it’s always been a two-edged sword. Many are lamenting the fact that paywalls limit access of readers to quality and truthful news. With that, many succumb to unreliable news sources and even fake news.
Q: Are paywalls profitable?
A: Paywalls can either be profitable or detrimental, depending on how established the site is. Many large websites with paywalls see a substantial increase in revenue. Meanwhile, smaller ones have experienced a decline in sales after readers looked for cheaper or free alternatives.
Q: Can you remove the paywall with inspect element?
A: Some websites with a basic paywall can be bypassed by simply clicking ‘Inspect Element’ and deleting the paywall code. However, this isn’t the case with bigger websites with advanced paywall setups. Nevertheless, there’s no harm in trying this method before moving to other options.
Q: Is it illegal to get around paywalls?
A: Technically, bypassing website paywalls is a form of cheating, so it’s considered illegal. However, there’s no known person who actually went to jail for it. Still, you may pay the price by getting blocked at the site or slapped with penalties.
Knowing how to get around news paywalls is a handy skill. This way, you don’t have to spend money if you only need to access one or two articles from a website. It’s also helpful for students who need the resources for their studies but can’t afford to pay for them.