wreckingBall()

Summary 

wreckingBall is a chrome extension (an app installed in your chrome web-browser), that gives users the ability to cicumvent media paywalls and read subscription content for free on leading news and magazine websites.  

 

The user downloads wreckingBall and our unique button appears permanently in their browser. Whenever a paywall is encountered, the user presses the wreckingBall button and the page reloads, revealing the full news article.

 

wreckingBall uses the chrome API and a combination of javascript methods to unlock each paywall in a unique way. For some sites, we change the HTTP-referrer to be Google (since most news sites allow Google Search Engine users the right to access one free article), while in other instances we clear browser cookies (to reset the allowable number of news articles). 

 

wreckingBall works for all major news sites in the US (e.g., Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post), selected international news sites (e.g., Financial Times, Telegraph, Haaratz) and a few leading business magazines (e.g., The Economist, HBR). These publications collectively receive over 100M unique visitors per month and generate $1B+ per year in subscription revenue. 

 

The idea for wreckingBall originated during the ‘Hacking Journalism’ weekend at MIT – a 2-day hackathon that our team ended up winning (more here and here). It exposes the fact that media paywalls are poorly constructed (an open-secret in Journalism), but also questions how content should be distrubuted. We see wreckingBall as an experiment in a more technology-driven newsroom and the first product from an open-source project that we're calling ‘New News Labs'.

 

Collaborators

Will Knight (Journalist/ Editor, MIT Technology Review)

Kyu Kim (Software Engineer, Shape Security)

 

Date

2014

 

Relevant material

wreckingBall chrome app and source code available on request (feel free to contact me)