Picture this: you’re in your flow of in-depth research, surfing through online publications, and trying to make sense of the chunks of information you’ve rapidly uploaded into your mind. And bam!
A paywall pops up from nowhere, and you can’t read a webpage. It may be a random article that you’ve never encountered before or Forbes. Either way, you can’t subscribe.
If you don’t read regularly, you’ll likely close the tab and find the information elsewhere, or ditch the entire idea. But there’s no reason to break your flow.
This comprehensive guide will give you a glimpse into how paywalls work and how you can bypass them on news sites.
What’s A Paywall?
This is a method news websites and publications use to restrict access to content by soliciting a subscription or purchase. There are different types of paywalls, each with a unique mode of operation.
Soft paywalls, for instance, limit you to several articles every month, allowing access to some content. But hard paywalls restrict content access, only allowing subscribed users to read.
A client-side paywall first loads the site’s content into your browser before checking whether you have the relevant authorization to view content.
If not, the site develops an overlay element that hides loaded content. But since the page has already loaded, you can extract the website’s HTML through extensions.
On the other hand, a server-side paywall mostly authorizes search engine bots to access the content. You can only beat it by tricking the site into thinking you’re one.
Why Do News Sites Have Paywalls?
We’re in an era filled with information overload, with different news apps and websites giving us everything we need at our fingertips. But this is a significant setback for printed papers, which initially generated a substantial chunk of publications’ revenue.
Magazines and newspapers had to reinvent themselves and keep up with the needs of a digital business model.
Subscriptions and paywalls are the new, most popular revenue strategies, and those boasting a loyal readership are earning from them.
But not all publications have a paywall restriction; some are supported by donations and subscriptions. There are also others like BBC and Reuters, whose digital versions have offered absolutely free universal access.
Given such abundant choices, it’s really your personal choice whether to purchase a subscription or bypass the paywall on news sites.
How to Get Around Paywalls
Now that you know how websites limit readers’ access to their content, it’s time to learn how to get around newspaper paywalls.
Typically, you can use vast approaches to read news articles on paywalled sites without subscribing or paying.
This will depend on the nature of the site (whether it uses a soft or hard paywall) and the device you’re using (PC, macOS, or Android).
Here are the most effective ways to overcome the barrier:
Block The Webpage From Fully Loading
You can easily beat a paywall by stopping the webpage from fully loading. The paywall will only appear once the page finishes loading, and blocking this allows you to read the article without subscribing.
Your easiest way around this is by holding down the Shift key and clicking the article link. This opens the content on a new page, but the paywall won’t appear.
Find The Article Elsewhere Button
Sometimes, another website that doesn’t have a paywall may copy content from a site that solicits users to subscribe.
You can find out whether another site has published the article by searching for the title on Google and looking for other sites that have published it.
For instance, if you need to read a New York Times article without a subscription, you may search for “Forbes paywall bypass,” and you’ll find multiple websites that have copied the content.
You may also search the article title and then follow it with “PDF,“ which often leads you to the article’s pdf versions that you can read without subscribing.
Edit Some Webpage Elements
If you comprehend a bit of CSS and HTML, you may edit some elements via your browser to push through some paywalls.
This essentially involves editing the web page to eliminate banners that conceal content behind subscriptions. It’s more like opening the curtains to reveal the beautiful view in the background.
This approach may work on some sites, but you won’t access the content without a paid account if they’ve added a hard block.
Try Incognito Mode
Note that this method can beat most websites–some may block you from viewing comments, while others simply won’t load. But it’s worth trying.
Bypass A Paywall Using an iPhone Shortcut
iPhone users can include a paywall bypassing shortcut in your Shortcuts app. Most people use this app for automation, but you can create all sorts of valuable shortcuts, including this handy one.
Once installed, you can open any paywalled website via the Safari browser, especially those that show you part of the content.
You’ll then open the Sharing icon once you see the paywall (the up-arrow and square at the browser’s bottom), then hit the “Paywall and Cookie Bypass” option.
You then Click “Allow” then “Always Allow”, and the paywalled page will redirect and open in your browser without subscribing or paying.
Bypass Paywalls Firefox Extension
Those who browse the web using Firefox can use the handy Bypass Paywalls extension to read articles even if they’ve not paid or subscribed.
To install it, you’ll launch your browser and then open the Add-ons page. You’ll then type “Bypass Paywalls” in the search bar and click the “Add to Firefox” button.
Once installed, you’ll be free to view content from any paywalled website by simply clicking on the Bypass Paywalls option in your toolbar.
Try a Facebook Redirect
Some sites have a paywall, but they allow readers who visit their pages through Facebook to read their content for free. This is possible even for those who don’t have a Facebook account.
You can do this by opening the web page you want to explore, clicking on your web browser’s address bar, pasting https://facebook.com/l.php?u= right before the paywalled article’s URL, and opening the page.
You’ll find a Facebook redirect page where you’ll open the website by clicking “Follow Link”.
Use a Browser or Service That Hides Your IP Address
If the paywalled website tracks users’ IP addresses instead of (or alongside) cookies, you can read more of its articles by masking your IP address. This method is only effective for soft paywalls.
You can hide your IP address in the following simple ways:
- Downloading the Opera web browser for Android, macOS, or Windows. The browser has a built-in VPN that effectively masks your IP address.
- Purchase VPN services, which include the additional benefit of securing your network and computer while browsing the web.
- Use a free web proxy to access several additional free articles.
- Install the Tor web browser that also comes with built-in IP-masking capabilities.
Dig Through Archive Sites
Archive sites usually have copies of old sites, and there’s a likelihood that the content you’re trying to access is stored somewhere else where there are no paywalls. You can easily access this content and use it for free.
To find a particular website’s archive site, you’ll begin by typing the website name followed by archive.org in the Google search bar.
You’ll get to view all the sites with archive copies of the website you’re trying to access.
Once done, search for the article title, then click on the provided links to read the content for free.
Disabling All Cookies
Some sites have difficult paywalls, and it can be challenging to beat them using any of the above methods. In this case, your last card would be to disable all cookies. This isn’t ideal because you’ll not have a read history and can’t log in to the site.
When you disable them, the site will assume that you’re visiting for the first time and allow you to access the content.
Remember that you should disable the cookies to remove the paywall on news sites, not delete them. If you delete it, the website will detect the activity and block you.
At this point, you now understand how to bypass paywalls on news sites and access the content you need. The methods described in this detailed guide are meant to make your life somewhat easier and keep you in the flow.
But while getting around paywalls is always desirable, we highly recommend that you support good journalism and content creators by commenting or even sending donations occasionally.