How to Easily Bypass the New York Times Paywall

NYTimes Last ArticleAre you reading the New York Times online? Are you now getting a message saying that you reached your monthly free article limit? A week ago, we explained the various loopholes in the paywall system that the New York Times has announced. Today is March 28th and that means the system is live today.

But even if you reached your limit, unless you want to buy a subscription, the system is quite easy to bypass.

NYTimes Paywall Overlay

The message that shows on your 21st article

The biggest flaw in the system is that the paywall message is not a webpage, but rather just an overlay lightbox. The article is still visible behind the box.

Delete Cookies

The number of articles you visited is actually recorded in a browser cookie, so simply clear your cookies, or just your cookies for nytimes.com and your article count gets reset again.

Use Private Browsing or Another Browser

Similar to deleting cookies, switching to private browsing mode or using another browser would use a fresh set of cookies so the article count would be 0 again.

Delete Query String

Not only is the message a lightbox, but it is activated by a query string in the URL. Simply head to your address bar and delete &gwh= and the string of characters afterwards. Hit Enter/Return and then the article will reload without the lightbox appearing.

For example, if the following was the URL of the article, the part highlighted in red should be deleted.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/business/media/29ipad.html?ref=technology&gwh=9C27271A5845DC07BCF8594D2FC575D0

However, the query string will re-appear on your next article so you will need to repeat this process over and over.

Search Engines, Social Networks, and Blogs

As mentioned before, New York Times is allowing 5 articles daily when referred to from a search engine and unlimited articles from social networks and blogs. Learn how to bypass these loopholes by pretending to be Googlebot or using Twitter.

So what are your thoughts about this new paywall system? Are you willing to pay for it? Or are you just going to bypass it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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By
Brian is the co-founder of TechAirlines. He is a developer currently focusing on mobile and web development. He is currently a sophomore at Stony Brook University, majoring in Computer Science.

  • http://personalcomputersos.co.cc Bob Zenith

    Wait, if the paywall message is an overlay lightbox, not a webpage, then visiting the site with NoScript enabled should also block it as well, right?

    I personally don’t read the New York Times very much, so I doubt I’ll have this problem, but I have no problem with them trying to charge for their content; it is their content, after all. It certainly will be interesting whether or not they actually profit very much from this.

    • http://www.techairlines.com Brian Yang

      Yep, disabling Javascript and/or cookies works too. I wonder why they made it into a lightbox. I expected something like showing a login page instead.

  • Gregory Scott

    Interestingly enough, it’s also shockingly easy to steal things from a store. Just stick something under your coat or in your bag when no one’s looking, and walk out calmly. It’s also easy to lift money from a friend’s unattended purse or wallet.

    Honor is in short supply these days when it comes to digital content. I would much prefer people in your position offer perspectives that help people frame the issue around the ethics rather than the pragmatics. You have educated people on how to take what is not rightfully theirs and provided no insights into what doing so means for the people who create those things in the first place.

    Your voice has power; please consider how you use that power, and to what end.

    • sxip

      Well put, Being a New Yorker, I pay for it. I did it because I like the New York Times to exist in my town. We are living in a culture of people who thinks the world owns them everything. It’s a colonial mentality.

  • Luke Walker

    I discovered early that simply deleting cookies allows continued access. However there is something else interesting happening. After finishing reading, and deleting all NYTimes cookies, sometime later, something is reloading them without ever revisiting NYTimes. Anyone have an idea about that mechanism?

    Another site I visit sometimes, BridgeDoctor.com, also has an interesting mechanism to recognize expired memberships and disallow new memberships. Deleting cookies doesn’t help, and the most interesting part is that it works on all four browsers that I use, even though I only signed up on one browser. That includes using a browser in a virtualized OS. Is it possible that it is IP based maybe?

    • http://www.google.com/ Macco

      Weeeee, what a quick and easy sioluton.

  • Luke Walker

    Perhaps I posted too early. I found this comment elsewhere:

    evercookie is a javascript API available that produces extremely persistent cookies in a browser. Its goal is to identify a client even after they’ve removed standard cookies, Flash cookies (Local Shared Objects or LSOs), and others.
    evercookie accomplishes this by storing the cookie data in several types of storage mechanisms that are available on the local browser. Additionally, if evercookie has found the user has removed any of the types of cookies in question, it recreates them using each mechanism available.

    I’m still looking for more about that. But it perhaps explains why ever 10 minutes or so, there are 221 NYTimes cookies set in my browser.

  • Luke Walker

    Just in case this info is helpful to someone else:

    All 221 NYT cookies on the Mac Safari are stored (in addition to the regular cookies) in ~/Library/Safari/LocalStorage. There isn’t a way to sort them conveniently for deletion (mixed amongst 3,500 items in my case), and in any case, I assume NYT would just recreate them. It appears to be sufficient to delete them just from the cookie files found in Safari/Preferences/Security – which does have good search function – to keep reading NYT.

    ~/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/#SharedObjects/ is where to find .sol files that work across multiple browsers once set. Deleting the associated BridgeDoctor file did allow signing up with a new account, thus solving a long standing mystery for me (BD uses Flash as its web interface). I also found a NYT’s .sol file as well, so I deleted it too. I’m not convinced it has much to do with the persistent cookie issue but no harm done.

  • Pingback: Why the NYT paywall isn’t like the FT’s | Felix Salmon

  • Ron

    Great article; I get around the pay wall simply by right clicking the article title & open it up in my Chrome browser “incognito” mode. Gotta love Google; The icon in the upper left hand corner is a Dick Tracey looking head shot, just to let you know what mode you are in. This worked for the WSJ until last week; Murdoch probably pays his software team double than the Times does. For some reason, I just a big kick out of circumventing that liberal rag. (I’m a conservative, but the Times has many, many excellent non-political writers & graphics people.)

  • deanO

    Just delete everything after the “.html” URL when it starts limiting you…and its all free. No limits at all. Why pay a penny let alone .99cents for the liberal rag.