Fairfax newspaper websites like the Age started using a paywall at the start of July. It’s metered, meaning you can view 30 articles a month before being blocked from viewing more unless you pay to subscribe. That’s only 1 a day. Fortunately, the paywall seems to be a simple and weak deterrent that is easy to overcome. If you want to read more without having to pay for it, here’s how you do it.
Method 1 – change ‘theage’ in the URL of any article to ‘smh’ and you can then read the same article on a different newspaper’s site. This also works with ‘brisbanetimes’ etc. The Fairfax network shares articles from the same centralised platform, so each article has a unique identifier, but the firewalls appear to be domain specific, so there is a separate paywall for each domain.
Once you hit the limit in one domain, start reading the same articles in another. The weakness of the system here is that it assumes that readers are loyal to the ‘brand’ of a specific newspaper and won’t browse elsewhere. How quaint. This method of circumventing the firewall appears to render articles even if those articles have not actually been published on another site. Not every article about Melbourne from the Age, for example, will be published in the Brisbane Times.
Method 2 – when you hit the limit in 1 browser, start using a different browser. The paywall uses browser cookies, so Firefox does not know how many articles you’re read in Chrome.
Method 3 – as an article page loads hit the ‘Esc’ key quickly before the paywall popup loads over the top. If you stop it loading you can read on indefinitely.
Method 4 – change ‘www’ to ‘m’ in the URL of any article. The mobile domain appears to be measured separately.
Method 5 – do what works with getting around the paywalls on the Australian and News Ltd newspaper websites – select and copy the title of the article, paste it into Google to search for it, then click on the link. Following external links to articles is different to directly clicking on a link to an article on a newspaper homepage. Fairfax needs external links for SEO purposes so those won’t be blocked.
A combination of these methods should mean that the paywall never interferes with your ability to read the news for free. The subscriptions Fairfax is offering are absurd and are not worth paying for. It costs $15 per month to access the Age site via a browser (regardless of device), but it costs $10 a month more to obtain the same content via browser and app (on mobile devices).
Is the use of an app worth an extra $10 a month to obtain the same content? I doubt it. The website has a reasonable mobile friendly layout. Consequently, the improvement in quality in terms of the user experience from mobile browser to app must be minuscule. That makes no sense. Paywalls are basically designed to trap stupid people.