How to get around the WSJ paywall
The Wall Street Journal is famous for its “paywall” requiring you to subscribe to read content online. Unlike some other notable competitors (namely the New York Times), the WSJ allows 0 articles a month to be read without a subscription. I pay for the NYT and some others, but I can’t bring myself to give money to Murdoch or anyone on their crazy editorial board.
The interesting part about the WSJ paywall is that you can read every article for free, but only if you are coming to each article from Google. If you click a link from an email it will try and make you pay, if you click the same link from a Google search you can read the full article. Because of this my general routine when getting passed a WSJ link was:
- Visit, seeing the first sentence or two and the headline along with a giant Subscribe ad
- Copy the headline and paste into Chrome’s address bar, which searches Google for the headline
- Click the first result which would inevitably be the WSJ article in question
- Read the article in full
This technique works well, but is an annoying process to go through. I recently decided to automate this and after some failed testing with using automated Google searches and the “I’m feeling lucky” button, I found that the only thing that mattered was making the initial request with a referrer of
There’s a wonderful Chrome extension called Referer Control that lets you control referrers (crazy right?). I created a rule matching
http://online.wsj.com/* that sends the referrer
https://www.google.com. Low and behold, no more paywall! I can click a link to a WSJ email and immediately see the full text.
I don’t use Firefox much anymore, but there’s a similar extension available for it that should do the same trick.
When visiting the WSJ, set your referrer to be from Google and the paywall disappears. If you use Chrome or Firefox there is a browser extension that makes this easy.
Sometimes you can come across a WSJ link that is to www.wsj.com instead of online.wsj.com, all it takes to make sure this technique works then is to create another rule for that base address. So
http://www.wsj.com/* and you can keep the same referrer.