Google scraps much-criticised First Click Free policy

GoogleGoogle is putting an end to a contentious policy that forced publishers to give away free articles so that they could appear on the tech giant’s search engine.

The ‘First Click Free’ policy, which required publishers to offer three free articles a day before presenting readers with a paywall, will be replaced by a ‘Flexible Sampling’ model. This model will enable publishers to choose how many articles, if any, that they will offer readers for free during a period of time.

Google has made the decision to give publishers more control following research, publisher feedback, and experiments with the New York Times and the Financial Times. Based on this, it also recommends that most publishers opt for a monthly, rather than daily, 10 articles for free limit.

“Journalism provides accurate and timely information when it matters most, shaping our understanding of important issues and pushing us to learn more in search of the truth. People come to Google looking for high-quality content, and our job is to help them find it. However, sometimes that content is behind a paywall,” said Richard Gingras, VP of News at Google, in a blog post.

“While research has shown that people are becoming more accustomed to paying for news, the sometimes painful process of signing up for a subscription can be a turn off. That’s not great for users or for news publishers who see subscriptions as an increasingly important source of revenue.”

In addition to the scrapping of First Click Free, Google is making it easier for readers to subscribe through a publication’s website, and introducing the ability to access the content from anywhere – whether the news site or mobile app, Google Newsstand, Search, or News.

On top of that, Google is working on using its machine learning capabilities to help publishers identify potential subscribers and present the right offer to these people at the right time.