The Loopholes in the New York Times Paywall


Are you a reader or subscriber of the New York Times, which is often considered one of the most influential newspapers in the world? As you may be aware by now, the New York Times Company has announced yesterday that they will be implementing a paywall system for their website that will go into effect on March 28.

Regular visitors are allowed to read 20 articles monthly for free without needing to pay for a subscription. At the 21st article, the prices are as follows: $15 for a month of access to the Web site and a mobile phone app; $20 for Web access and an iPad app; and $35 for an all-access plan. Readers with a home delivery subscription of the NYTimes will have access to all digital platforms.

However, NYTimes also announced that visitors coming from a link on social networks like Facebook and Twitter are allowed to view the article for free. In addition, visitors coming from search engines are allowed to view that particular article for a maximum of 5 articles a day, which is still about 155 articles a month (compared to the regular 20). And this is where loopholes come from.

Twitter List @FreeNYT

There exists multiple Twitter accounts compiled into a list that links to the newest articles available on the NYTimes.

When an article is accessed through social networks, the visitor is allowed to read the article for free so getting through this loophole is easy. Simply follow the list or choose your favorite section and visit the articles you want through these tweets.

Search Your Article

NYTimes still allows everyone to access their homepage and front pages of each individual sections, so just look for the article you want to read, copy the headline title, and search it up on Google (or your favorite search engine).

Of course, there is a 5 article limit for links from search engines.

Pretend to be Googlebot

Since Google can still index the content, this would imply that Googlebots (and other search engine spiders) are given unrestricted access. So simply pretend to be Googlebot, which can be done easily by editing your browser’s user agent.

Firefox users can try the previously mentioned User Agent Switcher. Create a new User Agent and use Googlebot: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +

For other browsers, there are several online tools that allow you to view a page as Googlebot such as this one.

Do you think they will be successful in this attempt at boosting digital revenue? Keep in mind that the gain in revenue from subscriptions will need to be greater than the loss in ad revenue from the obvious expected drop in traffic. Are you willing to pay for access to their online articles? Know any other loopholes in the current implementation of New York Times’ new paywall? Share your thoughts about this in the comments.

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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.