How To Do Crimes

But first: Today in #Pets

Someone replied to a Tabs recently to say:

Ya know, one of my other paid newsletters sends links without a paywall, sending the url as It saves me 3 extra clicks for each link. ;-)

I don’t do that, as I told this reader, because I completely rely on the work of actual journalists reporting and writing stories to make this newsletter worth your time to read, let alone your precious subscription dollar. Coming up with my own ideas for what to write every day would be a nightmare. Imagine being an opinion columnist, when there are tens of thousands of truck-driver jobs going unfilled? All those journalists need to be paid for their work somehow, and subscriptions are not the worst idea for how to pay them. I owe it to them to at least give their publications a shot at turning you into a paying reader.

But we do live in an age of proliferating paywalls, subscriptions for every streaming channel and music service, and pretty soon we’ll have to pay the Elon Musk tax just to invent a new type of guy to get mad at every day. I subscribe to a lot of publications, for obvious professional reasons, but I can’t afford to pay for every local newspaper that crosses the feed every day, and neither, I imagine, can anyone else.

So today’s Friday subject is: how to read paywalled content. It’s practically a required skill for Tabs to make any sense, and I bet all of us have something new to learn about the various ways to do it.

But First:

Here’s the Tabs subscriber discord #pets channel news, presented by front page editor @michelle and the pets of Tabs:

I truly don’t know what to tell you about the Discord. They just do this kind of stuff? Like, all the time. If you imagine that Twitter is the hidden painting of Dorian Gray, getting more hideous by the minute, the Tabs Discord is Dorian himself, growing younger and more beautiful with every crime we commit.

And speaking of crimes, let’s get to the criming, right after what is absolutely going to be history’s most ironic paywall. Listen, if you’re not a paid subscriber and you do find a way to circumvent this one, I won’t be mad.

🤑 I R O N I C P A Y W A L L 🤑

Ok, so you have a link to an article, the share copy was impeccable, you gotta read it. But it’s locked. What can you do?

Pay for a subscription

This has to be option number one. It’s usually the Right Thing To Do, and we all know it. If you see the same paywall more than a couple times in a month, that’s a pretty strong signal that you should just pay for it. I don’t need to belabor the point but if we’re not paying for news, then Shell Oil and Peter Thiel will be happy to do it instead. Pay for what you like!

Go incognito

A lot of paywalls give you two or three free articles before they lock down, and the simplest of them do that by setting a cookie that says “this is that guy, he’s already seen 2 articles since MM/DD/YYYY.” Incognito mode presents you as a fresh reader with no cookies, instead of that guy again. I use Chrome on a Mac so a new incognito window is ⌘-shift-N, but if you don’t already know how to do it for your platform, searching for “private browsing [my browser name]” will tell you.

Google the article title

Some paywalls will open access to anyone who comes in directly via a search engine. Financial Times and The Wall St. Journal are particularly well-known for this loophole. It’s a little cumbersome but generally you can copy the article title in the paywall page, do a right-click and choose “Look up [the phrase you copied],” and then click through from the resulting web search.

Look in the Google cache

Google itself sometimes has articles cached, which you can check by adding cache: before the URL in your browser’s address bar. If it’s not there, Google gives you a 404 error, if it is there it’ll give you a view of the article with some cache info at the top. is a paywall-evading tool, which seems to rely on the Google cache for its results. You can check it by going to and putting the article URL in the search bar, or by sticking in front of your article’s URL in the browser directly. It tends to work best on sites where the paywall is an overlay that blocks you from viewing all the content technologically, but where the article content is actually present in the paywalled page. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, what I mean is basically: “it works sometimes.”

As suggested by my original correspondent, is a “webpage capture and archive tool. Frequently it will capture and archive non-paywalled versions of web pages. Again, you can go to the site and enter your article’s URL or you can stick in front of the URL and see what you get.

The Internet Archive

One of the best ideas I ever had was to put a bookmark to on my bookmarks toolbar. I use it all the time, not just for this. But incidentally, the Internet Archive sometimes caches things sans-paywall.

Your library

Libraries often have access to subscription content. It’s kind of their whole thing! I can’t really tell you how to do this because there are a wide range of libraries and systems. Some libraries have an online portal that will let you get right to subscription content, some have a more roundabout system. But if you’re reading this, you would probably benefit from checking out what your local library offers.

Your work or school

Schools and companies sometimes have blanket subscription deals. I won’t say who it is to protect the guilty, but my current access to the Wall St. Journal is via a generous Tabs reader who works in academia and didn’t need their complimentary subscription. Likewise my current access to Bloomberg is, via a truly precarious connection, ultimately through someone else’s work login. Listen those are both expensive as hell, I’m saving up for them. But both of these anecdotes lead directly to what are probably my favorite answers…

Ask a friend for a PDF

Reach out to the group chat, and say “Hey, anyone got a subscription to The L.A. Times? Can you PDF me [the URL]?” Every phone and computer has a “print” option, and every print system I know of is capable of spitting out a PDF that you can email or text someone. Think of it as your Mom mailing you clippings, for the 21st century.

Share logins with the group chat

If you trust your friends (and if you don’t, are they really your friends?) consider making a shared spreadsheet with logins and passwords to the various publications you all subscribe to. Maybe you pay for N.Y. Mag and I pay for The Atlantic. Swap passwords and everyone wins. Ok, maybe not every paid publication wins, but if you get used to having access to a magazine, you’re way more likely to pay for it if your friend’s login ever stops working. I’m sorry content industry, but we just don’t all have enough money to pay for everything! We’re doing our best.

Your tricks?

That’s all I have for ideas. I hope one or two of them are new and helpful to you. But all of us are only as smart as one of us… or, none of us are as dumb as all of us…? Something like that. Anyway if you have a trick I didn’t think of, the thread is open:


or to participate.