This Guy Hacked the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Paywall in Ten Minutes, And You Can, Too

Categories: Post-Dispatches

mikeflynn123.jpg
Mike Flynn
Mike Flynn, of Punching Kitty fame, found this quick work-around in less than ten minutes.
Mike Flynn, a St. Louis native who now lives in San Francisco, wanted to read Bernie Miklasz's sports column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Monday morning.

But Miklasz's column, like much of what the Post-Dispatch calls "insider sports coverage," is now an stlEXTRA!, or premium content protected behind a paywall for subscribers. Only readers who pay $13.50 in monthly subscription fees get access to the clumsily named stlEXTRA! content, such as special columns, business market wraps and even online quizzes.

See also: Post-Dispatch Quietly Hikes Newsstand Price

Flynn is not really one to take no for an answer. In less than ten minutes, he published an HTML script that would allow any Post-Dispatch reader to access all the content, even stlEXTRA! stories, without paying a dime.

"It's pretty trivial," Flynn says of the browser user script he wrote. Flynn noticed the site's developers were tagging stories as either "free" or "premium" content for subscribers only. His script changes all that, causing the site to read every story as free, even if it originally wasn't.

(Find out how to install this on your browser here.)

Here's how he did it, according to Flynn's blog, the Angry Truth:

I took a quick look at the page source and found a meta tag named "__sync_contentCategory" it was set to "premium" on the article I wanted to read, but set to "free" on the article explaining their new paywall. Luckily their site is still slow as hell with all the ads and stuff they are loading, so if I just manage to change that meta tag to "free" on every article I read before their redirect script (probably loading on DOM ready) fires, will that short circuit the whole system?
Yup.

Flynn admits he feels a little guilty for finding a way around the rules. After years as the smart and snarky voice behind Punching Kitty, St. Louis' answer to Gawker gossip, Flynn says he knows what the the hardworking journos at the Post-Dispatch are up against. A new report this week says print ad revenues are now the lowest they've been for newspapers since 1950.

See also: The Three Best Posts from Punching Kitty, St. Louis' Gossip Blog

mikeflynnblogs.jpg
Emily Good
Mike Flynn blogs for Punching Kitty in the Loop.
"I feel bad in some regards, but paywalls aren't a good idea," Flynn says. "And they didn't do theirs very well."

Still, Flynn says he doesn't feel that bad. After all, not all of the P-D's subscribers are tech-savvy enough to use the work-around.

"They could just not care," Flynn says of the Post-Dispatch. "I very much doubt that they will see a lot of 'digital subscriptions,' and those that would be interested aren't the type to know what a user script is or follow me on Twitter."

And for all the other Bernie Miklasz fans out there, don't worry. Not all of his columns are "premium" content. But the paywall debate isn't fazing this columnist.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.


My Voice Nation Help
22 comments
Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

ya, but taking the fat girl to the prom is also easy.

David Biernbaum
David Biernbaum

All fine and dandy but if the PD can't make any money they will go out of business. That said, I think the quality of the content has regressed and I would like to see it improve to higher standards.

Kurt Walther
Kurt Walther

There's an easier way... Click on the article labeled insider, it'll load the article first. When it tries to load the paywall, press the stop button. Works on mobile every time!

MO_AaronD
MO_AaronD

Damn double post.  Thanks to failed post message.  Oh well, BUMP!!!!

MO_AaronD
MO_AaronD

It is a simple fix.  Took 10 seconds.  Not as sexy as a script but easier for the average user.  Click on page, CTRL-A CTRL-C copies the page to the clipboard before the paywall pops up.  Paste into your favorite word processor.  Then you don't have to blog on the sidewalk in the loop or take selfies on the metrolink. Screw unethical.  Lock your content up with a master lock not a plastic Barbie padlock.  If you think your content is so worth it spend the money.  If it isn't worth any real effort then I'm not going to treat it as such.  

MO_AaronD
MO_AaronD

10 minutes?  I got it in 10 seconds.  The page displays before it sends you to the login.  A quick CTRL-A CTRL-C copies the page to the clipboard.  Paste it into your favorite whatever and the paywall is defeated.  Yeah, not as cool as the script but just as effective and you don't have to sit out on the sidewalk of the loop blogging on your laptop and look like douche or take selfies on the metrolink. Once they evolve the paywall to something more (if they do) I'll spend more time on cracking it.

Andy Crossett
Andy Crossett

Glorifying theft not a good idea. And showing how even worse. Only hope PD corrects their problem. I have no problem paying PD for access to their site. Have been traveling during week, so made no sense to through away countless newspapers. Now I have a legit way to pay for service.

Andycrossett
Andycrossett

I think showing users how to steal content is unethical, especially from a respected publication competing in the same market.  

Shawn Smith
Shawn Smith

Expect that loophole to be closed any minute now. "Here's exactly how the guy did it." Brilliant, RFT.

NickLucchesi
NickLucchesi moderator communitymanager

True, stlEXTRA! is clumsily named, but let's not forget this space was once called the STLOG.

RIP STLOG
LONG LIVE STLOG

Megg Ray
Megg Ray

You guys/girls are funny today. Ahaha

dalediversity
dalediversity topcommenter

Why would anyone want to read Bernie's columns?  

wump
wump

split for the coast then steal st louis content, congrats you scumbag

sally2014
sally2014

Maybe you could do an article on how to shoplift. I'm sure there are a lot of people that could benefit from that too.


I don't understand why if Flynn knows what "hard-working journos" are up against, he would still move forward with stealing from them. Just doesn't make sense to me.


And I don't want to hear all the arguments about, "we can get news free everywhere" ... go there, get your free news. But if someone is charging for their PRODUCT, what right do you have to steal from them?

Steve Horak
Steve Horak

i want to hack the paywall of the perryville mo online newspaper so I can read the classifieds. Someone walk me through it.

wump
wump

@dalediversity dude, bernie is not a minority, he is just tan, its ok for you to like him.

Now Trending

St. Louis Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...