12ft.io is Your Friend for Bypassing Paywalls. But is That Okay? - Leaf&Core (2024)

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12ft.io is Your Friend for Bypassing Paywalls. But is That Okay? - Leaf&Core (1)In a perfect world, journalism would still be a lucrative and profitable business. A software engineer with a love of journalism would be able to reasonably pick one over the other without a dramatic pay cut that would make it impossible to live in the city she’s in. Instead, journalism is dying. It’s not as profitable to sell people the news as it is to sell them vitriol and hate. The local newspaper is but a fond memory of halcyon days, long gone. Even local news broadcast stations are largely owned by the same right-wing company, Sinclair Broadcast Group. (More on that from this entertaining fellow, who found that long form journalism was easier to sell when packaged with jokes.)

What’s a news company to do? They could sell ads on their sites, but many users have ad blockers, and ads generate more money for the company selling the ads, Google or Facebook, for example, than the publishers hosting them. They could go the old route of papers, with both ads and a subscription. However, people don’t want to subscribe to the news anymore. It’s not just that they expect the news for free, it’s that there are too many sources you should subscribe to. As the local news has died, getting world news from many sources is vital. Just how many subscriptions should you have? Should you spend $100/month on news subscriptions?

The perfect solution, obviously, is a bundled news subscription, like ones Apple and Mozilla have attempted. But in our imperfect world, 12ft.io may be the way past subscription paywalls if you just can’t subscribe to everything.


12ft.io is Your Friend for Bypassing Paywalls. But is That Okay? - Leaf&Core (2)What is 12ft.io? The name comes from the saying, “Show me a 10 foot wall and I’ll show you a 12 foot ladder.” It allows users to bypass paywalls and sign-up walls, though it doesn’t work on all sites. Many news websites have started requiring either a paid subscription or a newsletter subscription. You have to give them your email address, which they’ll send a newsletter to. You can opt-out of the newsletter, but they’ll still be able to use your email address for tracking purposes. This is valuable to anyone selling targeted ads, but violates your privacy for profit.

12ft.io will bypass those ads. It works by sending requests to webpages as a “robot.” This is a specific type of web crawler search engines use to collect information on websites. It’s why you can search for a topic and find a news article about that topic, even if the news article doesn’t have the search terms in the title or the relevant information is behind a paywall. News websites need to make sure search engines can find all of their content. 12ft.io takes advantage of that, submitting requests in the same way and delivering the content to you.

The service also comes with an iOS shortcut, to quickly send a page to 12ft.io to bypass the paywall. They also have browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Brave, however, to activate these, you’ll need a subscription to 12ft.io Pro, which is no longer for sale. It’s possible the website ran into legal trouble for charging to remove paywalls and ads, or some other technical problem. That means the service itself may not be long for this world. After all, processing requests takes server space and time, and that’s not cheap at this scale.

Is this Ethical?

That’s a very good question. On one hand, companies are relying on unethical means to make money. Tracking users across the web, serving up targeted ads that violate privacy, and refusing to take part in any form of subscription aggregation service is overly harsh on consumers, who don’t get a choice in the matter.

On the other hand, this is the only way to pay for content. People deserve to make money for their work, especially in journalism, when it can, at times, be demanding and even dangerous. It takes significant work from many people to put together the news.

However, people just can’t afford to pay for the news. Since there’s no aggregate news payment services, people have to subscribe to numerous services to get an accurate view of the news. Even formerly less biased sources, like BBC News and The Guardian UK have turned incredibly bias when it comes to some social issues, like trans rights. To get an unbiased view of the news, you’ll need to read it from multiple sources. Let’s take a look at how much that can cost:

  • NY Times: $221/year
  • Washington Post: $100/year
  • LA Times: $208/year
  • Wall Street Journal: $467.88/year
  • Business Insider: $99/year
  • Bloomberg News: $415/year
  • Wired: $29.99/year
  • The Atlantic: $59.99/year
  • NPR: Free, but consider donating!

Total costs? Over $1,600/year or about $133.41/month.That’s just for the sites I’ve listed here, you may want to include others. That’s more than anyone could be reasonably expected to pay. This could be solved with aggregate services. One company charging a flat rate to subscribe to multiple sites, or allowing a tiered system, like $5/month for three sites, $13/month for 10, and so on. Lower subscription fees like this that allow users to subscribe to multiple services make up for the lower costs by increasing the number of people signing up for these services. They could also help small independent publishers make money for their content when included in a subscription. Most of these companies are old, established brands, ran by billionaires. They’re out of touch with the modern market. It’s not working.

So, is it immoral to act immorally in response to immoral actions? I’ll leave that up to you and the philosophers to figure out.

Do More Elsewhere

Apple tried to pull together magazine subscriptions a few times, with Apple News+ being their latest disappointing attempt. It doesn’t feature enough papers and current news, and doesn’t improve on digital magazines over their print versions. In fact, it’s often just a PDF of the print version! Mozilla also abandoned their plans for a subscription service through Scroll. Twitter bought Scroll for their Twitter Blue subscription, which hasn’t been popular because it’s not what Twitter users or web users want. Anything but an edit button, right?

What you can do is get a few subscriptions, whatever you can afford. Read news from a variety of sources and use 12ft.io when you must, if you feel comfortable. Consider donating to your favorite sites, or sign up for their news service if you’re okay shedding privacy to support a company. If a company finally perfects the aggregate news subscription, jump on. Support politicians talking about subsidizing journalism to keep it free. Until then, online news continues to be broken, and the only ones profiting are those selling misinformation in rage factories. The web is broken, and if we don’t fix journalism on the web, the rest will crumble too. Until then, at least you’ll have access to all the news online with 12ft.io… for now.


As an expert and enthusiast deeply involved in the realm of online journalism, digital media, and the challenges faced by news organizations, I've closely followed the evolution of the industry and the various attempts to navigate its complex landscape. My comprehensive knowledge extends from the technological aspects, such as web crawling and paywall circumvention, to the ethical considerations surrounding content monetization and user privacy.

In the provided article, the author discusses the challenges faced by traditional journalism in the digital age, where the shift from print to online platforms has disrupted revenue models. They delve into the issues of paywalls, subscription fatigue, and the struggle for news organizations to remain profitable while providing valuable content. Here's an analysis of the key concepts mentioned:

  1. Challenges in Journalism Business Model:

    • The article highlights the declining profitability of journalism and the difficulty in sustaining traditional revenue streams, such as ads and subscriptions.
  2. Dominance of Tech Giants:

    • Google and Facebook are identified as major players in online advertising, overshadowing revenue generated for publishers. This dominance contributes to the financial struggles of news companies.
  3. Subscription Fatigue:

    • The author discusses how users are resistant to subscribing to multiple news sources due to the inconvenience and cost, leading to the idea of a bundled news subscription as a potential solution.
  4. Introduction of 12ft.io:

    • 12ft.io is introduced as a tool designed to bypass paywalls and sign-up walls on news websites. It operates by sending requests to webpages as a "robot," utilizing the same principles as web crawlers used by search engines to collect information.
  5. Functionality of 12ft.io:

    • The service is described as a means to deliver content to users by submitting requests similar to search engine crawlers, effectively allowing users to access news articles without encountering paywalls.
  6. Availability of 12ft.io Pro:

    • The article mentions the existence of a subscription tier called 12ft.io Pro, which is no longer available. Possible reasons for its discontinuation, including legal issues or technical challenges, are explored.
  7. Ethical Considerations:

    • The ethical dilemma of using tools like 12ft.io to bypass paywalls is discussed. While it aids users in accessing content without paying, the author questions the morality of paywalls that contribute to the spread of misinformation.
  8. Cost of Multiple News Subscriptions:

    • The article provides a breakdown of the annual costs for individual news subscriptions, highlighting the financial burden on users who seek information from diverse sources.
  9. Proposed Solutions:

    • The author suggests alternative models, such as aggregate news payment services, to address subscription fatigue and make news consumption more affordable and convenient for users.
  10. Failed Attempts by Big Tech:

    • The failures of Apple News+ and Mozilla's subscription service through Scroll are mentioned, indicating the challenges faced by major tech companies in creating successful news subscription platforms.
  11. User Recommendations:

    • The article concludes by advising users to support news organizations through subscriptions, donations, or by exploring new subscription models when they become available. It also encourages political support for subsidizing journalism.

In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges faced by journalism in the digital era and explores potential solutions and tools, such as 12ft.io, while raising ethical questions about the current state of online news consumption.

12ft.io is Your Friend for Bypassing Paywalls. But is That Okay? - Leaf&Core (2024)


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