Google to abandon "first click free" policy to assist digital publications industry

Google to abandon

Media company News Corp has welcomed Google's decision to end its "first click free" policy, saying the move will be positive for traditional media. The first click free policy required publishers to provide users with three free articles per day in order to gain prominence in Google's search results.

But apart from a few publications, online subscriptions haven't taken off as intended, and media companies such as Wall Street Journal parent News Corp. increasingly complained that freeloading users were cutting into sales.

Photo of Google by brionv used under a Creative Commons license.

- Facebook also has plans to enable paid subscription news services just like Apple did in 2016.

Press Gazette's Duopoly campaign carries the slogan: "Stop Google and Facebook from destroying the news industry". And they have expanded their control over the distribution of news, even as they have come under scrutiny for their role in spreading untrue articles.

Those challenges have caused years of budget cuts and staff reductions at news organizations, which Google says led it to act. Google had a troubled public courtship with other publishers, too. Robert Thomson the CEO at News Corp. said it fundamentally changes the ecosystem of content by supporting coherent subscription models. And, he added, "we have an inherent interest in making publishers successful".

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So far, publishers have been cautiously optimistic.

New publishers have reportedly lobbied for this change in Google's policy so that stories behind paywalls get parity in search rankings with those available for free. We have some bad news.

The first click free model has been described as toxic by some big publishers. Google said it is now ending that policy. Google will now give such publishers freedom to decide whether they want to let non-paying visitors access their content.

Google is recommending that publishers provide 10 free articles on a monthly, rather than a daily, basis. "He's very closely involved in a number of the publisher discussions", Schindler said.

While Google catches a lot of flak for disrupting the publishing model and causes headaches for publishers, speaking with AdNews last month when he was visiting Australia to meet with local publishers, VP of Google News Richard Gingras said actually it wasn't Google that caused it - it was the internet. The financial arrangement isn't yet clear, "but we're looking at it more from a cover-the-cost perspective". Google has a hard courtship publicly with other online publishers as well. Both platforms are still capable of delivering millions of readers to publishers, and the prospect of that power being used to drive subscriptions is undoubtedly tempting.

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