Best Sourcing Unblockers: View Paywalled Articles For Free

One of the best sources of information for passive talent and their companies are business news articles. You can learn who does what, what projects their companies see as priority, where they’re hiring, laying off, and much more that you can rarely discern from LinkedIn profiles.

If you already tap such channels, you’ve probably noticed that an increasing number of online publications charge for subscriptions to view their content. Even if you click a link to the article from a Google search result, the news website often fills your screen with a popup demanding you pay to view the article. Some are more sophisticated than others (e.g., Wall Street Journal uses a number of data points to decide if and when you’re blocked, explained further here.

But you can get around this! For those of you only interested in the fast, no-coding, sourcing magic bullet options on this topic, scroll down to the Fastest Free Go-To’s. If are a bit more curious technology-wise, then keep reading here.

Disclaimer: While you should pay for any news source you use regularly and find valuable, it is not realistic for the average user to personally pay to subscribe to dozens of news sites. Regarding installs, I anticipate no problems but cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen to your computer and do not provide tech support.

 

Some Informative Context

This article from June 2019 and this one published in January 2020 explain some methods that work on many popular news sites. Even though this article is a bit older, it has very good step-by-step and how-to screenshots. If interested in delving further, the article’s author also publishes a free Paywall Hacks e-newsletter; register here.

In July 2019, a Google Chrome browser upgrade helped bypass many paywalls by eliminating a common method used by online publishers to detect if your browser is in private browsing / incognito mode or not (i.e., when you press Ctrl+Shift+N to launch a new incognito tab). If you enter a paywall URL in a private browsing tab and you can view the full article, then the paywall they are using is cookie-based (it’s checking a cookie they saved to your computer) and not referrer-based (i.e., detecting the previous URL referring you/linking to their site).

I mention the dates of articles and methods because this is a continuing race between content providers and those seeking workarounds for the paywalls. Some creative methods that used to work no longer do (e.g., this post and the subsequent comments). So if you read my blog post in the future, I can’t guarantee which methods will still work.  But if you Google something like “hack paywall wsj”, click Google’s Tools tab, and limit the results to a recent custom date range (e.g., the past 3 months), then you’ll probably find something that works today.

WSJ.com, The Business Journals and Business Insider Prime have spent more effort than most sites in upgrading their blocking, so fewer free methods work on those sites. If something is designated premium content beyond the regular subscription, then it is probably not accessible by any method below.

 

The Fastest Free Go-To’s (finally some sourcing magic bullets!)

The reason these tools work so well is because they access the news site under a different entity, such as a bot or crawler. So you get the full content without subscribing. Google operates similarly, which is why paywall articles are indexed as well in their search results as free public webpages, but unlike the following services, Google won’t reveal a free version. Read this to learn more about these following tools:

1. The most-recommended free tool currently is Bypass Paywalls. It requires a quick one-time install for Chrome users or the sister Firefox version. Click the ReadMe file linked there for the easy install instructions. Once it’s added the extension to your browser, it will automatically display the full article from the dozens of news sites listed on the ReadMe page.

2. If you don’t want to install anything, the one I find works best (including WSJ.com and Business Insider Prime, but not The Business Journals metro news sites), and is the easiest to use, is Outline. No registration required: just enter the desired article URL in the free text field on their homepage, and it displays the unblocked article! It also creates a unique short URL starting with outline.com that you can share with colleagues or click anytime later to view! Try it by pasting this article URL or this one on Outline and watch the magic!

3. Instapaper is a popular save-to-read-later service. After registering free, click “Add a link” atop the homepage where you enter the desired article URL. In a few seconds, it saves and displays its version which is shareable. Like Outline, it works great with articles on BIP and WSJ, among many other sites, but not TBJ.

4. Unpaywall is another Chrome extension that works well for research papers.  While Google Scholar finds more of them, Unpaywall does find about 80% of the documents and it allows you to read them for free.

 

Extra Steps You May Need

The method shown in step 4 (“Disable JavaScript in Your Browser”) in this otherwise-great article to view TBJ articles no longer appears to work, so you have two options: use Bypass Paywalls (fast tool #1 above) or a block of code, courtesy of frequent SourceCon programming and automation conference track presenter, Andre Bradshaw (thanks, Andre!). The premise of this code is that it allows the primary content to load, but stops the page from loading further before the paywall overlay would load.

1. Highlight and copy the following code section (if the single quotes around text/html in the fourth line appear as curly apostrophes, paste it into a Notepad file first, and restore those to straight single quotes, then copy).

async function getHTML(url){

 var res = await fetch(url);

  var text = await res.text();

  var doc = new DOMParser().parseFromString(text,'text/html');

  return doc;

}

async function reloadContent(){

  var doc = await getHTML(window.location.href);

  document.body.innerHTML = doc.body.innerHTML;

}

reloadContent()

2. Go to the desired article and right click anywhere on the page, then select Inspect (or Inspect Element).

3. In the new window pane that appears, click the Console tab.

4. Click your mouse on the blank line below all the code, and paste (Ctrl+V in Windows or Cmd+V on Mac). Your approximate 10-12 lines of code should be showing.

Article Continues Below

5. Press the enter key on your keyboard to run the code. The page should now reveal the article!

The only drawback with this method is that images among the content may not load consistently.

 

For Mobile Users

I also found a tool explained here which supposedly works on an Apple iPhone using the default Safari browser.

The 7Labs article also recommends Twitter.com because its default URL shortener (t.co domain) often removes paywalls. It doesn’t work for BIP or TBJ articles, but this method is convenient on desktop or mobile. To use it:

1. Copy the original desired article URL to your clipboard. If using a mobile app (e.g., Medium.com), tap the Share button for the article and use the Copy Link option.

2. Open Twitter and go to the Messages section (envelope icon at bottom if using Twitter’s mobile app).

3. Click the New Message (envelope with +) icon, and search for your Twitter handle.

4. Paste the copied URL in the “Start a message” field and hit Send.

5. You should now see the new message in your DM inbox, containing the article link, title, thumbnail, etc. Click it to be redirected to the full article on the publisher site.

The 7Labs article also recommends Pocket which is very similar to Instapaper, but you click the + (plus sign) icon atop the page and enter the URL of the desired article. For me, it worked great for BIP articles, but unfortunately not TBJ or WSJ articles (their getpocket.com URLs still led to a paywall page).

 

In Conclusion

So now you have various ways to view useful paywalled articles across the web for sourcing purposes if your company won’t pay for all the subscriptions!

Glenn has been developing innovative sourcing and recruiting strategies, techniques and tools in scalable, cost-effective ways since 2015 at State Street, one of the world’s largest custody banks, focusing on diverse talent for North America.  From 2010-15, he was Group Manager, Sourcing Center of Excellence at Avanade, a $2 billion IT consultancy owned by Accenture and Microsoft. He led an online-focused offshore team and junior onshore calling team, plus some global training and talent sourcing initiatives.  In 2009, he conceived and implemented the Sourcing Lab series at SourceCon, which soon became its most popular track.  In 2017, he devised and proposed the Programmers track, which debuts at this SourceCon.

In the 1990s, Glenn created Recruiting-Online.com, a pioneering Internet recruiting seminar which remains the world's longest continuously-running, self-paced online talent sourcing course.  He has trained recruiters from hundreds of companies from the Fortune 500 to small staffing firms.  His popular "Beyond Job Boards" presentations have helped job-seekers tap the hidden employment market via innovative methods around search, social networking, and personal brand enhancement activities.

Glenn was a senior Internet researcher for Microsoft from 2005-2008, focusing on competitive intelligence and proactive international recruiting, following 2 years in a similar role at IT solutions firm, Getronics. Besides presenting at recruiting industry conferences, he co-founded the Boston Area Talent Sourcing Association (BATSA) in 2014 which he still runs.

A Yale University graduate, Glenn discovered recruiting in 1996 by founding the first newspaper chain-owned regional resume/job board in Massachusetts, JobSmart, which won the industry’s two most prestigious awards in 1998: the EPpy Award (Editor & Publisher) and the Digital Edge Award (Newspaper Assn. of America).

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