What to Know

  • Blurred text indicates a paywall is present, meaning the site wants you to sign up to view the content.
  • One way to see blurred text is to open the page in private mode (Ctrl + Shift + N or Ctrl + Shift + P).
  • If that doesn't work, you can attempt to hide the paywall through your browser's developer tools.

This article explains how to view the blurred text on paywalled articles to peek at what you'll get if you sign up or subscribe to that website. Unblocking a paywall to view blurred text doesn't work on all websites, and although there are several tips you could try, you'll have the best success with the first few described below.

Use a Proxy

This will trick the website into thinking it's your first visit. This works only for sites that blur the text after you've reached their limit of free articles.

There are many ways to do this—including just erasing your browser cookies and trying again—and there are even entire services built around it. The last step provides a few alternatives, but we’ll show how this works using the Internet Archive.

  1. Visit Internet Archive, and enter the web page’s URL into the text box.

    This is a website archiving service, so what you're doing is looking for historical snapshots of the page. Not all web pages exist here, so it doesn't work for everything.

  2. Pick a year, month, day, and time. If you're not sure what to choose, start with the more recent snapshots.

    Internet Archive calendar of snapshots with one day highlighted.

  3. The page, as it was archived at the time you chose, will open.

    If Internet Archive doesn’t delete the blurred text, try another archival site like Archive.today. Also try opening the paywalled web page with your browser’s incognito mode, Google Translate, 12ft Ladder, or OutLine.

Enter Reader Mode

Edge and other browsers have a special reading mode you can open that will automatically hide ads and other irrelevant objects, leaving just the article's images and text. This will sometimes let you view the blurred text.

Turn on Chrome’s built-in reader mode if you want to use that browser. We’ll demonstrate how this works with Microsoft Edge.

  1. With the article open, simply select the Enter Immersive Reader button to the right of the URL. Or, press F9.

    The Immersive Reader mode button highlighted in the Microsoft Edge browser.

  2. Immediately, the page should transform and hide the paywall.

    Microsoft Edge immersive reader mode

Hide or Delete the Paywall

If the text is blurry because a pop-up is "physically" hiding it, you can just delete it! This method works only if the paywall is essentially a sticky window hiding the content.

Before you walk through these steps, try pressing the Esc key immediately after the page loads, or even during it. This will often prevent the overlay from hiding the content—you might have to take a few tries at it by refreshing the page.

Here's how to do this in Chrome; it works similarly in other browsers:

  1. Right-click the pop-up or blurry text, and choose Inspect to open Chrome's developer tools.

  2. Look around in the code that's now visible at the bottom of the screen for a reference to something about the paywall or blocked text. It might say overlay or something similar.

  3. Right-click the code, and select Delete element. Don't worry, any edits you make are local, and apply only to your computer; you can't cause any damage or change the real website.

    The Chrome web browser's development tools highlighted.

    If you deleted the wrong thing, or it didn't unblur the text, Ctrl+Z will undo it, but we recommend attempting to delete other items in that same area until you find the right code snippet that belongs to the paywall.

  4. If you still can't see the text, or you can see only part of it but can't scroll, add this to the body element:

    overflow: visible

    If you already see that attribute, but it says hidden, just edit the text to say visible.

    The text 'visible' highlighted in Chrome's developer tools which explains how to show some hidden content.

On some websites, it can be a bit confusing deleting the right areas to remove the blurred text or paywall pop-up. If you're in developer tools, but can't seem to find what needs to be removed, see if you can open the article's paragraphs from there.

Just expand the lines that start with p, like this:

article text in Chrome developer tools

Other Ideas for Viewing Blurred Text

One website might implement its paywall differently than another, so you might need to try something else if the above directions aren't helpful.

For example, disable JavaScript to see if the paywall will fail to load, put a period right after the TLD (e.g., example.com./), or use a dedicated paywall skipper like Unpaywall.

Lastly, you can make the website think you're coming from Facebook, which could work if the website lets social media visitors access their content for free. To do that, copy the text below, and paste it just before the article's URL.

http://facebook.com/l.php?u=

We've also seen this work through Google. If you're browsing the website's articles from the website, copy the title of the article you're interested in reading, and paste that into Google. Click it from there, instead, to see if that lets you in.

Why Some Articles Have Blurry Text

There's one reason for this: to reserve select content for subscribers.

That might come in the form of paid subscribers, where the blurry text is accessible only after you pay. This is often the case with big companies that can afford to restrict access to their content. You might be able to see a few pages normally before a paywall (the blurred text) goes up.

If the restricted content isn't for paying subscribers, then the website just wants to collect users. They will force you to sign up for a free account before you can access the content. This is usually done so they can email you about their website's happenings.

Should You Unblur Website Content?

While it's true that a website might have multiple revenue streams, like advertising and sponsored content, bypassing a paywall no doubt directly affects the site's revenue.

The methods described above are intended only for taking a quick look at the content on the page, not for permanently bypassing paywalls and avoiding subscription-style content. Follow those steps if the website doesn't offer a free trial, but you want to take a quick peek to check if you like what you see before you start paying for it.

FAQ

  • How do I use Reader Mode in Safari?

    To activate Reader Mode in Safari, use the keyboard shortcut Command + Shift + R. Alternatively, go to View > Show Reader. You may also see a paper-shaped icon in the address bar.

  • How do I turn on Reader Mode in Firefox?

    As in Safari, you'll see a Reader View icon in the address bar if a page is compatible. You can also select View > Enter Reader View or press Option + Command + R on a Mac, or Option + Ctrl + R on a PC.

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