How to read paywall sites for free like FT.com

Here’s a trick you can use when you get sent a link to an article on a site like ft.com that makes you sign up to get past their paywall before you can read the article.

Most news sites that implement paywalls or sign in walls, where you have to create an account, login and even pay before you can access their content, implement something called Google First Click Free which is a technical standard that allows their sites to be indexed by Google and other search engines properly, and which means that when you visit their site having found them in a google search or in google news, you can read that article first, and maybe even some others (usually between 3 and 8) before you get stuck with the ‘please sign up now’ wall.

But, if you followed such a link sent to you by email, or saw it on linkedin, twitter or facebook, then you might not be able to read it for free.

A simple trick therefore is to do a google search for the keywords in the article title, and to use the “site:” keyword in your search to specify the site you know that article is on. For example:

site:ft.com Skype london closure

Then you can read the article you wanted to read, for free, without signing up.

Find out more about how it works from Google themselves, here https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2008/10/first-click-free-for-web-search.html

If you’re interested in a more permanent solution, you can even implement a browser extension that inserts fake ‘referrer headers’ when visiting such sites to trick them into thinking every page you visit has been referred to you by Google, here’s some example source code for such a Chrome extension https://github.com/carlosabalde/fcf-pass-chrome