Many leading news websites nowadays come with paywalls. To read more than two or three articles on such websites, you have to pay for a subscription. If you need occasional access to a publication’s website, it doesn’t make sense to subscribe to all of them. Also, the limited free content available might not be enough to evaluate whether a subscription is worth paying for. In such cases, it helps to know how to bypass the news sites’ restrictive paywalls.
Why Do News Sites Have Paywalls?
There are many different news websites and apps giving you all the information you need at your fingertips. This, however, comes at the expense of printed papers, which once formed a sizable chunk of a publication’s revenue.
Newspapers and magazines had to reinvent themselves in keeping with the times, and change their business model for digital users. For those with a loyal readership, paywalls and subscriptions have emerged as a popular revenue strategy. However, not all publications are paywall restricted. Some are supported by advertisements or donations. There are also a few like Reuters and BBC whose digital versions remain absolutely free to read with universal access.
Given such an abundance of choice, it is really an individual’s decision whether or not to buy a subscription.
How to Get Past Paywall on News Sites
If you need infrequent access to a paywall-restricted site, the following methods have proven to work in many cases. Not all methods work equally well on all websites; in each case, you’ll need a bit of trial and error.
1. Use Cached Versions of Websites
You can use a website’s cached version to pull out a specific story from a Google search. Remember to use the Boolean operator
site:"domain name."com which will give search results for that site alone. Next, click on the three-dot menu at the end of the relevant search result. If the website has enabled caching for that particular page, you will see a prominent “Cached” option in a pop-up box.
The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times (UK) and New Yorker no longer show cached results. Having said this, not all paywall websites have disabled them. This means that you really have to check with individual websites to know their approach to caching.
2. Clear All-time Browsing Data
Since most news websites have limits of three to five free articles per month, it is possible to reset your count on the browser with Ctrl + H. After clearing your all-time browsing data including cookies and cached images and files, you may visit the restricted site to read a few articles once again. This “rinse and repeat” method works well on mobile and desktop devices.
In the past one could access blocked content on Chrome or Firefox in Private/Incognito mode. That is no longer possible.
3. Use Web Archives
If you’re not particularly keen about the latest content, you can simply check online archive tools. Wayback Machine and WebCite are two of the best links to search for backdated online content. All you have to do is check whether the URL with hidden content has been archived in the past. This will give date-wise results; go for the most recent update. You don’t have to go too far back in time as many of these digital snapshots can be just a few months or even a few days old.
In addition to making inaccessible content accessible, these websites provide another valuable service. They ensure that if the news sites eventually delete something which others are reporting, it can be traced from the archives. As a result, such links are often used by journalists and those who suffer online censorship.
4. Use Paywall Bypass Extensions
On Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge desktop versions, you can use a GitHub extension called “Bypass Paywalls Chrome” which is very effective in unblocking many leading news websites (not all of them).
- First, download the zip file available at the link share above. Then, extract the zipped file’s master folder and save it on your device.
- From the Chrome/Edge omnibox, visit the extensions page by typing chrome://extensions or edge://extensions. On this page you need to enable the developer mode.
- A menu option called “Load unpacked” will show up on both Chrome and Edge. This is used to import the unzipped master folder from your computer.
Once the Bypass Paywalls extension is installed, you can easily view blocked content from many paywall-restricted sites.
5. Switch Browsers/Devices and Use a VPN
Many users have reported success with accessing paywall-restricted websites simply by accessing them on different browsers and devices. Apart from Chrome, Edge, Safari, and Firefox, there are many amazing browsers to choose from. When you have many browsers installed on your device, and different desktop and mobile devices, this does work as a great way to overcome paywall restrictions.
If you have a VPN service, it would multiply the number of articles you can read for free.
Many people consider it improper to bypass paywalls because it affects the livelihoods of journalists. But what if you don’t really visit a particular website that often? News travels through forums and social media, and there is no escaping Wayback Machine and other paywall archives. It is all right to use alternate ways to access news content through valid online methods. At the same time, we do not endorse any misuse of such methods.
Image credit: Unsplash
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