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[flagged] Ask HN: Can we stop linking to paywalls?
89 points by cloudking 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments
Frequently finding upvoted links to paywalled news sites, which usually ends up in a search for a similar article from a free news source. How much time could we save each other by not linking to paywalls?

If there's a workaround, it's ok. Users usually post workarounds in the thread.

This is in the FAQ at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html and there's more explanation here:



If you're seeing paywalled articles where there was no workaround, please let us know (hn@ycombinator.com is best). But if you're seeing paywalled articles with workarounds, that's normal. Please don't post about it, since it's off-topic and has been discussed many times. We all know the paywalls suck. It's just that HN would suck worse without NYT, WSJ, Economist, etc., articles.

Please allow a paywall tag of some kind then, and a listing of common workarounds somewhere. Then I'm sure the amount of threads about this would decrease by a lot.

You should look up the many comments about this topic by HN moderator Dang:



The decision (and community consensus) is that paywalled sites are OK if there is a known workaround.

Usually someone will post a workaround in the comments.

Usually the workaround involves https://archive.is.

If none exists, the article shouldn't be on HN and you should flag it.

Longtime HN users accept that this is the least-worst resolution to the issue.

The more-worst version would be that nothing with a paywall is ever allowed, meaning that content from some of the world's leading publications (NY Times, Washington Post, The Economist, WSJ) would never be seen here.

HN could never claim to be a place for discussing the most important topics if those publications were excluded.

Community discussion seems like an interesting vehicle for article micro-payments.

Could someone try to negotiate a pooled deal with the WSJ based on a valid HN cookie with >X internet points? Or just a single subscription with the agreement that it would be scraped and self-hosted by the community?

I like this. Would be cool to start a HN News fund

Thinking more about implementation - although users could use micro-transactions among themselves, providers might be more inclined to opt-in if we offered to pay by block. For example, if a paywall article starts ranking up, we could let the provider know to remove the paywall for certain duration. Kind of like a scheduled spot instance on a Cloud VM.

I bet there's a flag that toggles paywalls on articles and is easier for providers to implement than restrictive access.

Using our fund - we could then pay the provider. Assuming that an average top HN post gets 10K views - and each user pays $.05 per viewing. That makes a total of $500. We would give the provider an upfront payment of say $500 dollars based on estimations. A $20 contribution to the fund means almost 400 articles [enough for more than a year] on front-page paywalled subscriptions for a user.

So the spiel to providers are - we'll pay you $500 for 6 hours of free article read time. That's all they need to know. We handle collecting funds on our side from actual readers.

It's actually genius because content providers can write and support articles catered to a particular community and are incentivized because they don't have to worry about conversion of users to paid subscribers.

How many paywall sites have half decent forums/discussions? It seems like that's the sort of thing they could leverage to drive their subscriptions, kind of like how the letters to the editor section used to get used. At the moment this is outsourced to twitter/facebook/reddiit/etc and they get no revenue from it.

I dig this idea as well.

A lot of comments point to the fact that companies need to make money on the articles they publish.

However, a lot of interesting and cool stuff is posted outside of the realms of professional journalism. I mostly come here for the cool new product, an interesting blog article, or a research paper.

In my opinion, corporate journalism is more noise than good content here.

Why don’t we, as HN community, find a solution to pay for content before we take away the only legitimate, non-intrusive way to make a living from journalism. Remember Jamal khashoggi could have decided to become a software engineer and could have been drinking the SF koolaid instead of sacrificing his life.

Absolutely agree. I don't begrudge news sites for charging to keep the lights on, but IMO HN as a community shouldn't be driving traffic to paid sites, especially since there will always be quite a few people who can't read any given article... who is going to have a subscription to 3, 4, 5, 6 or more news sites? That gets expensive quickly.

I agree with you but maybe the poster of the link sometimes forgets to be posting a paywalled page. In any case, how about making the HN submit page check the URL against a list of well known paywalls and warn the poster? There is a short list at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Websites_utilizing_pa... and a longer one at https://github.com/iamadamdev/bypass-paywalls-firefox

Another option would be a convention to add a tag that the article is paywalled.

I think this is a great idea. It’d stop me from constantly clicking on items that I can’t read, without affecting the discourse on HN.

That sounds like a reasonable alternative, good idea

I agree, this would be a good compromise.

... and ideally a way to optionally filter out all paywalled sites from the homepage.

Can we? I'm sure it's possible.

Will we? Probably not.

FYI: F12 > application > clear all site data works like 80% of time.

Sooo... not to rag on HN or anything, but this seems like the kinda thing that ought to be implemented as a user profile preference (e.g. a pay-wall boolean or perhaps even a whitelist). Because without getting into a philosophical debate, whether or not a user is interested in seeing submissions that are behind a paywall is most definitely a user preference.

So what if media outlets charge money for good journalism? Move on.

Outline.com - however, it does not work on some sites, e.g. WSJ...

How dare people ask for money.

Why should we stop linking paywalled articles and not books or software or other non free things?

An article is a few minutes, and we get way more out of those other non-free things. If there was a way to pay e.g. 10c to read just that article, I would do it without much thought if the opening paragraphs told me it was worth my time, but I'm not subscribing and paying every month for 0-2 articles per week that I might care about. I just move on.

Personally, I agree. I have no problem with paywalls, and actually subscribe to one paid site and wouldn't mind subscribing to more. But it can be pretty irritating for an aggregator. I go to paid sites individually, not from an aggregator.

I believed that if the news outlet breaks the news that should be the link, even if paywalled. Free news outlets just paraphrase after it.

There could be a correlation of it being a pivotal article and having a paid business model.

Companies need to make money somehow. If not with paywalls, it’s harder for them to avoid monetizing by tracking and advertising

Yes, but that does not imply we have to post content from sites that need to make money on their content.

I assume that the companies with paywalls still advertise and track on top of that (one reason I refuse to pay for them).

Yes, that is very unfortunate. Ars Technica at least will disable trackers on paying members

Is anyone experimenting with other models than personalized advertising or paywalls?

Many countries have state funded news organisations, BBC, A(ustralia)BC, DW, etc. It's a tried and proven model but many will here will be ideologically opposed to it.

ProPublica is a non-profit news site that runs on donations.

Absolutely. They are perfectly entitled to put their content behind a paywall but they want to freeload off the open web driving traffic to their sites as well, they're parasites.

Might also lift discussions standards (pot meet kettle) if everyone could RTFA.

I think it's worth paying for good quality journalism. It's nice to support the institutions that serve a vital role to the checks and balances of our democracy.

Also, some of you may not know it but you can access the news for free through your local library. For example, I get the NY Times online via the Santa Clara County Library.

This is a link aggregation service, though.

The OP is not really weighing in on the value of pay walls, nor whether or not they actually ensure "good journalism." The issue being raised here is that posting pay-walled links increases friction for, I would imagine, the overwhelming majority of users of the site.

I wouldn't expect people from, say, India, or even Brazil, to be able to get the NYT from their public libraries. They have their own newspapers to subsidize.

New York times, forbes, Washington post, wall street journal 600 a year.

Median individual income in the United States is $865.

If you are a highly paid engineer imagine writing a check for 3k for news. Poorer people could use the library if they had time between their 2 jobs.

I agree with that in general, but which site or sites? I honestly don't read any particular news source enough to justify giving them as much as they ask. The intro rates seem to be pretty low for many, but then after 3 or 6 months they bump up to $15-$30/mo. I can't justify spending that much to read even 5-10 articles per month per site.

I did not know this! I would totally do this instead of going around them! Do you have more info on this?

(I do pay for those I really like, but for those in which I only read an occasional article or two, I don’t particularly feel like subscribing)

Here are the details for Santa Clara County Library


That is a good point, but in my opinion outside of the scope of HN.

If your argument should be applicable for content posted on a link aggregator followers should either subscripe to everything, turning the link aggregator into a money cow, or they will hit the wall so often that the aggregator becomes futile.

I would be fine with paying for good quality journalism, none of it is though.

this is fine, but it's expensive to subscribe to all major news sites in the world.

Many of the major news sites in the USA are also available for free when on Starbucks Wi-Fi.

> How much time could we save each other by not linking to paywalls?

Not very much? How much time do you really spend clicking "Back" after hitting a paywall?

Most have very simple workarounds and/or someone will post an archive or outline link in the comments.

It's not just about wasting time. Often a headline will interest me, click, oops, nope, can't read it. Some stories certainly are genuinely unique to a particular news site, but often most of the NYT/WSJ/etc. articles posted aren't exactly high-quality and something very similar can be found on CNN, AP, etc.

This is where the aforementioned workarounds come in.

Many workarounds have stopped working, due to incognito mode detection or other means. Regardless, I shouldn't have to waste my time digging around to find a working workaround when the submitter could have taken a few minutes to see if there's a similar-quality article covering the same topic on a free site.

While I'll occasionally click on an archive.is link, ethically (and legally) it's not great to mirror someone else's paid content for free.

I don't think any of us are sitting around reading articles on HN because we're optimally using our time. I'd rather know an article exists and see if there's a means to read it than never hear about it. Unless it's a piece of breaking news, there's probably not another equivalent source. It's unlikely some other source performed the exact same in-depth investigation with the same quality into whatever the paywalled piece is about.

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