How to Get Around a Paywall

Many blogs and online news outlets put up barriers, known as paywalls, to limit free access to their stories and articles. They do this to make sure that the people who create these pieces get paid for their efforts. However, this can be annoying for readers who just want to get information.

In this guide, I will show you how to get around these paywalls in a few simple steps. But before we dive into that, let’s take a moment to understand what a paywall really means.

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What are Paywalls?

A paywall is a digital gatekeeper that websites use to control who gets to see their content. Big names like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist use paywalls to ask visitors to pay up for a subscription if they want to read their articles.

When you bump into a paywall, you’re usually greeted with a message encouraging you to “Subscribe now for unlimited access!” This means if you want to read beyond the headline or the first few lines, you’ll need to open your wallet. Sometimes, you can read the beginning of an article for free, but then you’re asked to subscribe if you want to read the rest (it’s a good idea to save the article to check back later in these cases).

It’s not just news sites that use paywalls. Some blogs that earn money from ads will also block certain articles or content unless you log in as a member.

How do Paywalls Function?

As we’ve already covered, paywalls are essentially barriers that restrict free access to a website’s content, asking readers to sign up for a subscription instead. The type of subscription can vary – some publishers offer an all-access pass to their entire range of content, while others might allow you to buy access to specific articles or a limited number of articles each month.

There are a few different kinds of paywalls, and how they’re set up can differ from one publisher to another. Here are a few examples:

  • Hard paywall: This type of paywall is uncompromising; if you’re not a subscriber, you can’t access any content.
  • Soft paywall: Soft paywalls are more flexible, allowing you to read some content for free but restricting the amount without a subscription.
  • Metered paywall: A metered paywall lets you read a certain number of articles for free each month before asking you to subscribe.
  • Freemium model: Under the freemium model, some content is available for free, while other, more premium content requires payment.
  • Patron model: The patron model asks readers for donations to access content, relying on their generosity rather than a fixed subscription fee.

With a clear understanding of what paywalls are and how they work, let’s move on to explore some straightforward ways to bypass these digital barriers.

10 Ways for Bypassing Paywalls

1. Bypass Paywalls with a Firefox Extension

For Firefox users, there’s a convenient extension called Bypass Paywalls that allows you to access articles behind paywalls without a subscription.

To get started, open Firefox, navigate to the Add-ons page, and search for “Bypass Paywalls”. Hit the Add to Firefox button to install it.

After installation, whenever you encounter a paywalled site, simply click on the Bypass Paywalls button in your toolbar. This handy tool grants you access to the article, bypassing the need for a subscription.

2. Search for the Article on Other Sites

Often, articles behind paywalls are reposted on other websites without such restrictions. If you’re looking for a specific article, try Googling the title along with keywords like “free access” or “no paywall”.

For instance, if you’re keen on reading something from The New York Times without a subscription, a search for “new york times article free access” might lead you to sites that have republished the article.

Google search results showing how to bypass paywalls

Another trick is to append “pdf” to your search. This often uncovers PDF versions of the article, available for free without subscription barriers. Check out our article on how to search more accurately with Gooogle.

3. Use the ‘Unpaywall’ Chrome Extension

The Unpaywall for Chrome is capable of helping you access content behind paywalls without needing a subscription.

Simply go to the Extensions page in Chrome, search for “Unpaywall”, and click Add to Chrome to install.

Screenshot showing the Unpaywall extension

With Unpaywall installed, visit a paywalled site and click the Unpaywall icon in your toolbar. Instantly, the article becomes readable, subscription-free.

4. Bypass Paywalls by Resetting Your Browser Cookies

Getting around a paywall can sometimes be as simple as clearing your browser cookies. Many websites track how many articles you’ve read and then enforce a paywall, limiting your access. By clearing your cookies, you effectively erase this tracking, making the website treat you like a new visitor, thereby resetting your article count.

To clear your cookies, head to your browser’s Settings or Options menu. Look for the Privacy section, select Clear browsing data, and ensure Cookies and other site data is checked. Hit Clear Data to freshen up your browsing slate.

Guide on how to reset browser cookies
5. Remove the Paywall Manually

Some websites have paywalls that are not very sophisticated. In these cases, you can bypass the paywall by editing the website’s source code yourself.

To do this, use your browser’s developer tools to locate the element responsible for the paywall. Once found, simply delete it. This action will allow you to access the article without needing a subscription.

In Google Chrome, for instance, you can bring up the Developer Tools by pressing Ctrl + Shift + I. A window will appear where you can navigate to find the paywall code. When you’ve located it, right-click on the element and choose Delete Element, then refresh the page to see the results.

Tutorial on deleting a website's paywall element
6. Prevent the Paywall from Loading by Stopping the Page

Stopping a web page before it fully loads can also serve as a clever tactic to bypass paywalls. By interrupting the loading process, the script that triggers the paywall might not execute, allowing you to read without a subscription.

You can do this by opening the article in a new tab and immediately stopping the page’s loading. On many browsers, holding down the Shift key while clicking the link will achieve this, preventing the paywall from appearing.

7. Explore Archive Websites for Free Articles

Archive websites are online libraries that save snapshots of web pages, making them an invaluable resource for accessing content that’s otherwise locked behind paywalls. These sites store articles in their entirety, available at no cost.

To find an archived version of a specific website’s content, use Google with the search pattern:

site: website name

This search will list all the archived instances of the specified website. Navigate through these results to find and read the article you’re interested in without encountering a paywall.

Screenshot of showing archived websites
Use a “Read-it-later” Tool

Read-it-later tools are applications designed to save web articles for offline viewing, which is a clever way to bypass website paywalls. When you save an article with these tools, you can read it anytime, without internet access, and without running into paywalls.

One of the leading read-it-later services is Pocket. Installing the Pocket browser extension allows you to quickly save articles behind paywalls for later enjoyment.

Pocket app interface

Other notable read-it-later services include Instapaper and Evernote. Experiment with these to find which one suits your needs the best.

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9. Convert Page to PDF

Another way to read articles offline and bypass the paywall is to convert the web page into PDF.

To convert the page to PDF, use a website like Web to PDF or PDF My URL. Paste the URL of the article into these websites, and they will convert the page to PDF for you. You can then save the PDF for offline reading.

web to pdf
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10. Sign Up for a Free Tril

Last but not least, if you want to access articles on a website for a limited number of days, you can sign up for a free trial. Many websites offer a free trial of a varying number of days before you can subscribe so you can try out the service before paying.

But don’t forget to cancel your subscription before the free trial ends, or you’ll have to pay the subscription fee.

Wrapping up

There you have it – 10 ways to read articles that are behind a paywall. Try out a few of these methods and see which one works best for you. Happy reading!