The 6 Questions About Paywalls You Were Afraid to Ask


I’ve received a few reader queries about newspaper paywalls: What are they? How do they work? Why do we link to paywalled articles in our critiques and Israel Daily News Stream? And how can readers get around them?

1. What’s a paywall?

A paywall is a way of blocking Internet readers from reading a web site’s content unless they pay money.

Publishers argue that quality journalism costs money and they can’t afford to give it away online anymore.

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2. How do they work?

The most common paywalls can be divided into three categories.

  1. Soft paywalls.
  2. Hard paywalls.
  3. Combination paywalls.

The soft paywall system (also known as the “metered system”) is the most common. Readers can view a number of articles for free within a certain period of time. When you use up your quota, you have to pay to continue reading. For example, the NY Times gives you 10 free articles a month while the Washington Post gives you 20. And if you arrive at an article from Facebook or Twitter, it won’t necessarily count against your number of free articles.

In a hard paywall system (such as the Times of London and various professional journals), you can’t read anything without a paid subscription. Period.

Sites with a combination paywall (Time and Sports Illustrated come to mind) make certain content free and while charging for premium articles. This is sometimes referred to as “freemium content.”

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