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A paywall (or pay wall) blocks access to a webpage with a screen requiring payment. Web sites that use them include some owned by periodical publications.[1]

In 2002 the Financial Times started charging for Web access to published stories.[2]

In the UK, MoneyWeek started using a paywall in 2005. Now 60% of the magazine content stays behind the subscriber paywall for one month. This includes cover stories and in-depth articles. Managing Director Toby Bray says they are keen to emulate the model which gives access to a certain number of articles per month across the entire site.[3]

The Wall Street Journal is the last major newspaper in the USA to still have its website behind a paywall. The Journal has almost one million paying online readers, which generates about $65 million a year.[4][5]

Current implementations

  • Johnston Press began a paywall trial for six local weekly papers, charging users £5 for three months.[when?] Johnston has yet to report on the trial's success.
  • In the US, the large daily Newsday charged $5 a week for access to its website, for which subscribers to parent company Cablevision's Internet access were exempt (Cablevision holds the cable franchise rights to most of Long Island). By mid-January 2010, three months after charging began, just 35 subscribers had signed up.[6] It temporarily removed its paywall in December 2010, only to reinstate it in January 2011.
  • The Financial Times charges readers on a "metered" model, under which readers get access to some articles for free, but must pay for more. The system is generally regarded as a success.[citation needed] From April 2010 the FT dropped its metered free access without registering option and now requires all readers to register before they can view articles - free access is still available after registering on a metered monthly basis.
  • The Times and Sunday Times newspapers started charging to access their websites in June 2010. Users pay £1 for a day's access and £2 for a week's subscription.[7][8] As of late July 2010, unconfirmed reports have stated that the new website may have only 15,000 direct paying subscribers to date, with another 12,500 paying for access via an iPad app.[9]
  • On the 16th of November 2010, it was announced that the website of the News Of The World would be placed behind a paywall.

Paywalls removed

The New York Times had a subscription program, TimesSelect, which charged $49.95 a year, or $7.95 a month, for online access to the newspaper's archives. In 2007 paid subscriptions were earning $10 million, but if every reader who reached the paywall had entered the site, ad revenue would have been higher.[citation needed] In 2007, The New York Times dropped the paywall to its post 1980 archive. Pre 1980 articles in a pdf format are still behind the paywall, but an abstract of most articles is available for free.[4]

In 2008, the Atlantic Monthly dropped its paywall.[10]

First click free

On December 1, 2009, Google announced changes to their "first click free" program which is running since 2008 and allows users e.g. of the Wall Street Journal to find and read articles behind a paywall. The reader's first click to the content is free, and the number after that would be set by the content provider.[11][12]. For publishers, this creates an opportunity to opt for paid content without losing much in terms of search. And for Google it allows paid content news sites to be searchable.[13]


Utilities to circumvent paywalls are available. RefSpoof for Mozilla Firefox spoofs the referrer to Google so that multiple "first click free" links can be performed.[14] BreakthePaywall adds an option to Internet Explorer's context menu which uses various methods (referrer and user-agent spoofing, Cookie deletion).[15]


  1. ^ "A Brief History of Paywalls". Retrieved 2009-11-30.
  2. ^ The Newspaper that Doesn't Want to be Free Success of under paywall
  3. ^ Paywall Q&A with MoneyWeek's Toby Bray How Moneyweek implemented Paywall and what their plans are for its future
  4. ^ a b Pérez-Peña, Richard (September 18, 2007). "Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-14. These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the paywall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.
  5. ^ "Whoah! Quietly Makes Big Traffic Strides". Condé Nast. Retrieved 2008-04-14. No wonder Rupert Murdoch's in no hurry to do away with The Wall Street Journal's online paywall. Even with it still in place around large sections of the site, traffic is still growing at a most impressive rate.
  6. ^ John Koblin (January 26, 2010). "After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday's Web Site". The New York Observer.
  7. ^ "The Times Paywall: One week on". idio. June 9, 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  8. ^ Times and Sunday Times websites to charge from June
  9. ^ Dan Sabbagh (July 18, 2010). "Times paywall: the numbers are out (should we charge for this?)". Beehive City. Retrieved 2010-07-22.
  10. ^ "The Atlantic drops paywall". Atlantic Monthly. January 22, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-14. Beginning today, is dropping its subscriber registration requirement and making the site free to all visitors. Now, in addition to such offerings as blogs, author dispatches, slideshows, interviews, and videos, readers can also browse issues going back to 1995, along with hundreds of articles dating as far back as 1857, the year The Atlantic was founded.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Google To Let News Groups Set Reader Limits". Wall Street Journal. December 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-01.[dead link]
  13. ^ "First Click Free". idio. June 28, 2009. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  14. ^ RefSpoof from MozDev
  15. ^