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New York Times paywall proves easy to subvert

By Aemon Malone
Provided by

The New York Times erected a paywall around nytimes.com to encourage regular visitors to enroll in one of three paid subscription plans. While reactions to the paywall have tended towards the negative, it’s hard to accuse The Times of being ungracious about its implementation.

While users who access more than 20 articles per month directly through nytimes.com are required to subscribe, The New York Times also included a provision to permit access to five additional articles if the content was reached through a search engine. Users can access an unlimited number of articles as long as they do so through links posted on blogs or social networks like Twitter of Facebook. The Gray Lady even went an extra step and offered all three subscription plans for $0.99 for the first four weeks.

Even so, some loyalists are still upset at having to pay for something they have been accustomed to getting for free. Mashable has posted a couple of simple ways to get around the paywall in a matter of seconds. One method involves removing “?gwh=numbers” from the URLs, which will prevent the site from tracking how many articles have been accessed. Other, even easier methods that reportedly work include clearing browsers’ caches or simply switching browsers altogether.

Another loophole emerged in the form of the Twitter account @FreeNYT which has begun publishing a stream of nytimes.com content (The New York Times has reportedly asked that the account be suspended).

It’s not clear how much paywall “hacking” The New York Times is willing to tolerate. But given the relative ease, it’s hard to imagine that a high level of paywall-dodging was not anticipated by engineers.

The Onion, in its infinite satirical wisdom, offered this take on the paywall: “NYTimes.com’s extremely risky new approach to commerce—wherein legal tender must be exchanged in order to receive a desired service—could drastically reduce the publication’s readership.”


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