How to read The Wall Street Journal online for free, and other newspaper tips

tricks for reading the newspaper online free and getting cheaper subscriptionsWith media mogul Rupert Murdoch increasing the number of his newspapers that charge for online content, as his Wall Street Journal does, it's just a matter of time before more newspapers start charging to read online.

Jim Wang of Bargaineering has found a workaround to read the Journal for free online. I also have my own methods to get major discounts off newspaper subscriptions at home, which I've been doing for more than two years with the New York Times. But first, here's Wang's method for reading any Journal article for free online:

Most WSJ online articles have small keys next to them, showing that it's subscriber content only and that a subscription is needed to read beyond the first few paragraphs. Subscriptions are $1.99 a week for online only, $2.29 per week for print only, or $2.69 per week for both.

The subscriber wall isn't present when visiting WSJ via a link from one of its partners, even though the URLs are the same.

To read a WSJ story for free, copy and paste the headline of the article into a Google search. The first result will usually be the WSJ article. Click through and read the article in its entirety for free.

I tried it with the the story "Top Iraq al Qaeda Leaders Killed." The WSJ story didn't even give two complete paragraphs, but after searching for that headline in Google, the top link was to the WSJ story. I clicked on that link and was taken to the complete story without needing to subscribe.

I don't know how to get a print subscription discount at the Wall Street Journal, but I have a method that has gotten me The New York Times for half off for the past two years. No idea if this will work at the WSJ or other newspapers. It couldn't hurt to try.

The Times' online content is free for now, although it plans to start charging for online stories sometime next year. I prefer to have a hard copy in my hands, so after starting with a discounted print home subscription, I called the customer service line just before my introductory subscription was about to end.

I ask if the 50% off discount can continue. It seems like the operator is reading from a script, because after I tell him or her that I'd like to cancel my subscription if the discount can't continue, they must be prompted on their computer screen to ask me to hold while they go get a supervisor. A few minutes later, they come back and tell me they have clearance from their supervisor to continue the discount for three months, although I've also had it extended for six months. I've done this at least every three months for more than two years, and it has worked every time.

Of course, now that the cat's out of the bag on the Times and WSJ discounts or freebies, both may put a stop to the workarounds. But until then, if that day ever arrives, try calling the circulation department of whatever newspaper you subscribe to and threaten to cancel unless they give you a 50% discount. They'd rather have you as a paying customer, even at half off, than as no customer at all.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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