Some newspapers are planning to put their content behind a ‘pay wall’, meaning that they will charge you for access to their articles. The New York Times is planning to set up such a wall, which will probably will be in place by January 2011. The Wall Street Journal website already offers certain articles to subscribers only.

When you are doing research, pay walls can be very annoying. They can also be tiresome when you are not doing research of course. However, there is a trick that you can use to get access to pages behind those walls. How? The answer is Google News.

Google News has a program called ‘First Click Free’. Participating publishers allow users to access articles behind walls, without requiring them to register or subscribe. The idea behind this program seems to have nothing to do with copyright or good PR, but it has to do with the problem of cloaking. Nevertheless, Google also writes that “First Click Free is a great way for publishers to promote their content and for users to check out a news source before deciding whether to pay”. Maybe the argument of cloaking is just a way to force publishers to have a special door in their walls for Google (and its users).

How to use

Whenever you bump into an article on e.g. The Wall Street Journal (this newspaper participates in the program) and you see an excerpt or summary of the article, copy the title of that article. Then surf to Google News and paste the article’s title into the Google News search field and press ‘Search’. Make sure Google News includes older articles in its search when the article you are looking for is not of recent date.

Remember that, depending on the publisher, the number of free articles you can read through Google News might be limited.