While most news sources have adopted the modern realities of open informational exchange and freely offer news online, The Wall Street Journal is on of the few remaining newspapers still holding on to the traditional subscription model. Well, not for much longer…
It has puzzled me for a long time why some of WSJ articles are free to read when I get to them from other websites, while these same articles are a “premium content” when I go to WSJ directly. It turns out the newspaper is using the HTTP referer passed by your browser to identify where you come from and selectively opens the content for certain domain names.
One of these sources getting the “free ride” is Digg. Of course the newspaper doesn’t want to miss out on the ton of traffic which the popular social news community may mean if a link to the article gets “dugg” to the front page. The same applies to Google News reader.
Which brings us to an interesting conclusion, it appears that The Wall Street Journal is selectively free depending on where you come from. With this information (and just a bit of imagination) you can easily figure out how you can be a part of that market that WSJ is trying to please.
This article explains the details but in a nutshell it boils down to two approaches:
- Find the WSJ article of your interest on one of these “free ride” sources (for example on Google News) and open it by clicking on a link from there.
- Install a browser plugin that spoofs HTTP referer and make WSJ believe you come form one of these sites
Either technique gives you free access to the premium content that WSJ charges $79 a year for. And while the newspaper can’t and probably won’t stop you from doing this, the big question that remains however is the morality of this hack and this is what you have to decide for yourself.