How to Read the NewYorker’s & the Atlantic’s articles for FREE

✔︎ Last updated on February 11th, 2024

This was the first article I ever read on the NewYorker magazine’s website. I had never heard of the NewYorker magazine before. I liked the titles of some other articles on its website, I clicked on a few and then, I hit the paywall.

Newyorker magazine allows you to read only a few articles for free.
The Newyorker magazine’s website allows you to read only a few articles for free.

Apparently, the NewYorker allows only a few (maybe 3) articles to read for free before you are prompted to subscribe.

Now, I don’t like restrictions. I willingly seek out barriers just so that I can find ways around them. Heck, this is the sole reason for the existence of this blog: I encounter restrictions in my workflow, I find ways around them and then, I write about it.

So, it wasn’t a surprise that my focus shifted from reading the article to finding ways to bypass the paywall.

I searched on Google and after a few failed attempts, found the perfect solution. As a side note, the first Google result (www.removepaywall.com) didn’t work for me.

The working solution is simple. You just have to prepend the string “12ft.io” before the URL https://www.newyorker.com/.... in the browser’s address bar.

Appending 12ft.io before the URL removes the paywall on NewYorker's website.
Appending 12ft.io before the URL removes the paywall on NewYorker’s website.

Remember, the URL in the address bar should look like 12ft.io/https://www.newyorker.com/...... and not like 12ft.io/www.newyorker.com/...

The string https:// must be there between 12ft.io/ and www.newyorker.com.

What is 12ft.io?

12ft.io seems like the magic keyword, but what is it?

The 12ft.io is a website whose name is a reference to a 12-foot ladder.

Show me a 10-foot wall, and I’ll give you a 12 feet ladder.

Given the problem it solves, that’s a pretty vivid metaphor.

How to Read the NewYorker’s & the Atlantic's articles for FREE

How and why does this work

As it turns out, there are two kinds of paywalls on the internet: Soft paywalls and hard paywalls.

Websites like newyorker.com, theatlantic.com, etc. use soft paywalls.

A soft paywall is just an HTML element blocking your access to the content itself. The article is downloaded to your browser, but you are prevented from viewing it using some Javascript logic. Websites like 12ft.io, and removepaywall.com, just disable the JavaScript so that the blocking element doesn’t show itself.

On the other hand, when websites use a hard paywall, the article isn’t even downloaded to your browser. In most cases, only the first few paragraphs or an excerpt are sent to the browser, which is then shown to the user. Medium.com and the New York Times use the hard paywall.

As you can probably tell, the hard paywalls cannot be bypassed, since there’s no way to get the content on your browser without a username and password.

Why do websites use soft paywalls?

Since the soft paywalls can be so easily bypassed, why do websites even use it? Why don’t all websites just put their content behind hard paywalls?

The reason is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If the content is hidden behind a hard paywall, not even Google can index it. And if Google can’t index a piece of content, it’s as good as dead.

So, websites are hard-pressed to tread a fine line between the SEO benefits and forcing users to pay. The soft paywalls provide this nice middle ground.

On what websites does it work?

I have tried 12ft.io on NewYorker.com and theatlantic.com, and it worked for me. It, however, doesn’t work on medium.com and nytimes.com because they use hard paywalls.

What about ethical concerns

Yup, I know this is wrong. We should support the already beleaguered publishing industry by paying for their subscriptions. No doubt about that.

But, since now, almost everything is becoming subscription-based, the costs, however tiny individually, can quickly add up. As of today, the Newyorker magazine’s subscription costs $49.99 per year. In some countries, this much money is sufficient to buy 50 lunches (Yup, fifty!). If you only read a few articles per year, this is far too much to shell out.

I know this is just selfish reasoning designed to justify the thievery. There’s no selfless argument for using a paid service and not paying for it.

Also read: 17+ Awesome Excalidraw Tips for Insane Productivity

Wrap up

So, that brings us to the end. The key is to keep trying with different tools. If none of the tools work, probably that article is protected by a hard paywall.

Maybe it’s time to buy the subscription or borrow the username and password from a friend.

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