Understanding and Navigating Per-Month Article Limits

Over the past 20 years, digital news-seekers have seen barrier after barrier put up to deter free browsing of high-quality journalism, essays, scientific research, and the like. The likeliest barriers are pay-to-read articles (more commonly known as paywalls) and per-month article viewing limits. Many consumers simply concede there is no way around rather than coughing up cash and going over the wall.

But, to those willing to experiment and explore some inner workings of their web browser, you can also go around or under these walls. This article focuses on article-per-month limited websites using The Atlantic as an example.

Monthly Article Limits at www.theatlantic.com:

I’m a cultured man about town, so I enjoy reading an article from The Atlantic from time to time. Not enough to purchase the physical magazine, but if there’s an important political or cultural article (in this case, how SNL was last night…), I like to read it from the source instead of a watered-down version elsewhere on another site. Thankfully, I haven’t read any Atlantic this month so I get one (1) free!


Unfortunately, something else caught my eye while I was looking at the main page—doesn’t matter what. I only get one free article per month… right?

Wrong. Now, let me try to explain my methodology. My understanding of web design and computer science is elementary at best, so here we go: every computer page you visit records information on you. This information gets tracked in a variety of ways—cookies, history, etc. Essentially, if you delete those trackers, the website thinks you have never visited it. Thus, you can enjoy free monthly articles ad infinitum. You can do this a number of ways, I’ll describe my two favorites below:

Option 1: Clear site data

Let’s start with the complex option. So, you want to read all the articles on the Atlantic but don’t want to pay today (or you are trying out the site to see if it is worth paying for!). There are four easy steps to this process. The first is to open the Developer Tools Interface with the F12 hotkey. It opens up this menu on the right:

Let me start off by saying this interface is incredibly intimidating. Fortunately, we just need to know where to navigate and completely ignore all the other options. Here are the next steps (with a picture guide!):

  1. Navigate to the Application screen (top of interface)
    • (1A) You may need to click “>>” to the right for a drop-down menu to see the “Application” option
  2. Click on “Storage” (left of interface)
  3. Then, click “Clear site data”
  4. Dance party (not pictured)

Repeat this process any time you are prompted you’ve read all your free articles—I personally use this for the New Yorker and the Atlantic. This process may not work with all, especially those that require a sign in / free trial.

Option 2: Incognito Mode is Your Friend

Now, the simple option. Google Chrome and Firefox (and countless others, I am sure) have “incognito” modes that do not save your browser history, cache, cookies, etc. When you “run out of free articles,” paste the URL into a fresh incognito window, and enjoy.

My last bit of advice would be to check out your local branch (or nearby branches) to see if they offer access to news sources! For instance, my home library (Cooper-Siegel Community Library in the Fox Chapel Area) offers free 24-hour passes to the New York Times for any card holders (under the right side under “NYTimes”)!

Hope this helps at getting those hard-to-reach, premium opinion and news articles. Any questions, comments, or concerns, please reach out to me at smithc2@einetwork.net.

Cameron R.S. Smith — Cooper-Siegel Community Library