The New Yorker, or How Not to Set Up a Paywall, Part 1

Credit: The New Yorker

On the topic of paywalls, The New Yorker is clearly in favor of monetizing their content. In June, editor David Remnick said, “I was going to be damned if I was going to train 18-year-olds, 20-year-olds, 25-year-olds, that this is like water that comes out of the sink.”

On the magazine’s website, protected behind a paywall, sits every issue of The New Yorker dating back to 1925. But just because you put up a wall doesn’t mean people can’t climb over it, or in this case, hop over it.

Subscribers to this fine publication can access the complete archive with an account number, that random string of letters and numbers on the address label of the magazine. When you register, the website asks for your email address, which by default, becomes both your user login and password. While this might not seem like a big deal, I’m guessing most people don’t bother changing their password to something slightly harder to guess. This design decision makes it possible to bypass the paywall with just a subscriber’s email address.

You just have to ask, “Who is the typical reader?” Perhaps it’s someone who teaches English, maybe at a college, probably in New York, where the department homepage lists her email address, along with every faculty member’s. And in all likelihood, this person registered with a non-faculty email address, such as one from Hotmail or Verizon.

And if you’re still stumped, The New Yorker even gives you a hint. Check out line 762 in the second Javascript file on the archive page.

Update 1: As of this afternoon, The New Yorker has removed the “hint” from their Javascript file.

Update 2: We’ve just published Part 2.