Monday, October 28, 2013

The Great Paywall

As print subscriptions to newspapers have declined, and even major papers are resorting to newsroom layoffs, it has become increasingly common for newspaper websites to use a paywall model of access for online content. Usually under these models, a selected number of articles are available free online per month, and after that, visitors discover that the next article they wish to read is locked, and requires a paid subscription to access.

Fortunately, the Duke University Libraries have access to thousands of major and local newspapers online. To locate databases which provide access via your NetID and password, visit our link to Online Full-Text Journals and type in the title of the newspaper you wish to access. Law students, faculty and staff have additional access to many newspapers and news wire services through Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law.

But these third-party subscription databases sometimes do not include a newspaper's "web-only" or "online-exclusive" content. Occasionally, there will also be an "embargo period" which delays the latest articles from showing up for a day, a month, or even longer. How can you access a recent article if you have exceeded your free allowance? Websites offer tips like running a blocked article through Google Translate or other Google proxy servers, or accessing links via the papers' social media accounts, which tend not to count against a user's monthly allotment.

However, many of the major newspapers also offer free or deeply-discounted educational subscriptions, which may be worth exploring for the convenience of direct access to your favorite newspaper websites:
  • The New York Times offers non-subscribers 10 free articles per month. Digital-only subscriptions are available to the general public for as low as $15.00/month. However, the Times offers a steep 50% College Rate discount for students, faculty and staff with a valid .edu email address. The education discount can be applied to a print subscription (which also includes full digital access) or a digital-only subscription.
  • The Washington Post offers non-subscribers 20 free articles per month. However, the paper recently announced free, unlimited digital access for anyone with a valid .gov, .mil or .edu email address. New users will need to create and confirm an account at the Free Digital Access page. This free access includes content delivered on the website as well as through the Post's smartphone and tablet apps.
  • The Financial Times recently extended its embargo period with third-party databases from 1 day to 30 days. Subscriptions to the FT website or print edition are notably expensive, with digital-only access available for about $25.00/month, or print subscriptions or a print/digital combination available for nearly $50.00/month. Fortunately, users who register on can access up to 8 free articles in a 30-day period.
  • The Wall Street Journal was one of the first newspapers to use a paywall model, cutting off free access to its website in 1997. However, some content is still available for free on; locked articles are identified with a key icon. WSJ offers students a 75% discount on print subscriptions, which also includes access to the digital edition and mobile app versions.
For assistance with locating full-text access to a newspaper not covered here, be sure to Ask a Librarian.