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

Janie Parker
October 3, 2017

Publishers are acutely aware that some level of free sampling is required of majority to be successful online, but this new scheme will give them greater control over how it is distributed. The "First Click Free" policy - described as toxic by some large publishers - has been replaced by "Flexible Sampling". The company announced that it would like to give more support to journalistic texts with Paywall in ir search engines.

Gingras also suggested to Search Engine Land that content users subscribe to may be boosted in search results, possibly in a box separating it from organic results. For example, when The Wall Street Journal stopped giving free tasters of its content earlier this year, its traffic from Google users plunged by 44%.

He added that enough news outlets with paywalls had reached a threshold which encouraged Google to start developing tools for them. For the uninitiated, Murdoch's News Corp. publishes two newspapers, i.e., The Times and The Sun.

Kinsey Wilson, the former executive editor of USA Today who now advises New York Times Co., said publishers must be careful about letting Google be the middleman to its readers.

Google says, "This structured data helps Google differentiate paywalled content from the practice of cloaking, which violates our guidelines". According to the Media Statistics of 2017, the United State's digital ad revenue in 2017 had a major stake of around 47% held by Google.

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"Publishers will determine their own optimal rate of sampling based on their ongoing experience using free samples to attract new users and using the paywall to elicit user registration or subscription", the company said.

In an attempt to smooth over tensions with media groups, Google began collaborating in August with the New York Times and the Financial Times, both of which rely on paywalls, to run trials with lower numbers of free daily articles.

Users have become more accustomed to paying for news, and those payments are more important than ever for news publishers who view online subscriptions as key to a successful business model, said Richard Gingras, vice president of news for Google. Gingras said that the main goal is to transform this purchase into a one-click process.

Realizing the need to increase subscriptions for publishers, Google has planned to launch free software within the next few months. The chairman of Axel Springer the publishing giant in Germany wrote in an open letter in 2014 that the company was afraid of Google. Links that didn't offer a first free click were search demoted. Google Now wants to simplify this with a shorter purchasing process.

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