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The Stack Archive

Wall Street Journal closes Google paywall gap

Thu 9 Feb 2017

In the latest move in publishers’ conflicted attitude to paywalls, the Wall Street Journal has now apparently abandoned the one loophole which permitted users to access its content without becoming subscribers – effectively retrenching entirely into subscription-based content on a similar basis to the Financial Times.

Formerly it was possible to access a WSJ article by pasting the title into a Google search and clicking on the inevitable first link which matched the title. This workaround was possible because the Wall Street Journal allowed Google’s IP addresses onto a whitelist, which in turn assured that the search engine would be able to index the entire content of the article.

Now, this method has been abandoned, which means, as far as it is possible to tell, that search engines are only able to index the paragraph or so before the ‘read more’ ellipsis.

In recent months venerable political blog The Spectator has similarly tightened up this ‘Google loophole’. Formerly it was possible to gain access to an entire print-fed article by simply deleting cookies from the domain; now users trying to sidestep subscription are met by a large block inviting the reader to register – presumably to grow potential subscription databases.

However, in the case of The Spectator, the block can be obviated by use of ‘Reader View’ – the URL bar icon – initiated by Apple’s Safari browser and since imitated by other mainstream browsers. The new configuration for WSJ does not permit this.

The move is part of the ongoing conflict between the need for mainstream, high volume publishers to disseminate their expensive output across search and social media channels, and the increasing burden which adblocking is placing on them to monetise that content in the face of a web readership which has become sensitised to the privacy and annoyance concerns of overly-invasive ad campaigns.

From this point on the Wall Street Journal, it seems, will have to join the similarly delimited Financial Times in placing its keyword content early enough in the article that they can act as magnets towards subscriptions.

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