Go ahead and call me a news junkie freeloader, ’cause I love to read my newspapers online for free. And why shouldn’t I? Up until a few years ago most prominent newspapers were happy to publish well-researched stories written by talented journalists, and just give them away to online freeloaders like myself, for free. I believe these media outlets called us digital mooches ‘guests’.

Anyfreeread, the free ride is over. On October 22 The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s largest newspapers, is following the digital subscription model notably embraced by The New York Times by building a paywall to keep out the unprofitable riffraff like me.

newspaper paywall

I understand why paywalls exist. Go ahead and Google ‘decline in print advertising’ and read (for free) about the collapse of the old print model. Turns out people used to pay for tangible newspaper subscriptions. Today, readers save trees by reading news online, for free. Let’s blame the iPad and smartphones, OK?

Globe and Mail media reporter Steve Ladurantaye (@sladurantaye) sums up the costly situation in a free tweet:

Steve Ladurantaye

According to Mashable, a free news site, 20% of U.S. newspapers now have online paywalls — “twice the number that did a year ago.”

Given this trend to build paywall systems, I can’t help but wonder — who is paying the bucks to read newspapers online?

Someone must be. The New York Times paywall is working. Despite costing anywhere from $3.75 to $8.75 per week for an online subscription, the NYT had more than half a million digital subscribers as of the end of June.

Back in Canada, The Globe and Mail hopes to repeat The New York Times’ success. Charging $20 per month for ‘unlimited’ online access, The Globe’s digital subscription costs 18ish bucks less than a dead tree subscription. Sign up for traditional newspaper delivery and get the digital subscription for free.

How to get past a metered paywall

Do not despair, dear freeloaders, there are a few legal ways around a newspaper’s paywall. Take these five tips for a free trial spin and save.

1. Work your meter. Many paywalled newspapers are happy to grant mooches a few free reads each month. Both the NYT and The Globe give readers access to 10 free articles per month before hitting the paywall. Exceed this amount and a paywall popup may ask for your credit card number. Wait for the next month to roll around, and you’re back to your scheduled amount.

2. Follow your paper socially. Is your favorite paywalled newspaper social media friendly? Follow them on Twitter or Facebook and you may be able to click through to those articles without upticking your meter.

3. Get social with your favorite journalists. I admit I play favorites when it comes to the news media. I like some writers more than others, so I follow them on Twitter and Facebook to enjoy their must-reads and weekly contributions. Because links shared through social media often don’t count against a meter, it’s makes good financial sense to socially follow your star reporters and glean their goods for free. Heck, share these reads with others, drive traffic back to the newspaper site, and everyone wins.

4. Google it. What site doesn’t appreciate a little free search engine traffic? All of them! Since many paywalled newspapers give Googlers a break, search for articles and click away without dipping into your metered reads.

5. Buck up. If you love the content and can’t live without professionally edited copy written by professional journalists, buck up and buy a dang digital subscription. There’s no sense in spending your precious hours dicking around with a paywall meter if you benefit from a publication regularly. Seriously.

I don’t work for free. You probably shouldn’t either.

So sign me up for The Globe and Mail’s digital subscription. I’m in.

Love,
Kerry