Google ends First Click Free policy on paywall content

15 2017. REUTERS  Dado Ruvic  IllustrationMore

15 2017. REUTERS Dado Ruvic IllustrationMore

The "first click free" policy at the world's biggest search engine was loathed by publishers because while the stories, videos and images appearing on Google have been free for its users, it is expensive to produce.

This latest move will see the scrapping of First Click Free, a system whereby paywalled publishers could list their content on the search engine provided they gave away three free articles per day.

The Wall Street Journal notes that when News Corp (which owns the WSJ) diasabled free access to its articles via Google Search earlier in 2017, its stories were heavily demoted in search rankings.

After ten years of insisting that such publishers implement a so-called "First Click Free " policy, Google on Monday said they could now decide how many free articles, if any, they want to offer readers before charging for it.

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Google has realized that it is not getting the intended results with this policy, as there is no substantial increase in the number of subscriptions for other news websites, apart from just handful of them. 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. Search giant Google has chose to discontinue its trick that granted freeloading site visitors access to articles that are meant to be behind paywalls.

"It will be a slow and gradual process where people will have to learn that quality content does not come for free", suggested Recon Analytics' Entner.

Google has also said it plans to help solve barriers to subscription, like the "hassles" of registering on a site, remembering multiple passwords and enterting credit card information.

Google writes, "Publishers are in the best position to determine what level of free sampling works best for them".

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Google suggests it is working together with web publishers to simplify what ever transaction form they wish to go after in order that it's less hard for end users to make the decision what they would like to pay money for. If they didn't comply with that policy, then the site would rank lower in search results because Google's algorithm only scanned for free content.

For most publishers, 10 articles per month is a good starting point.

Google's announcement comes as Facebook is in the midst of a charm offensive with publishers, launching a variety of journalism-related projects and teasing new ways for publishers to introduce subscription options.

Another welcoming comment from The Financial Times' chief commercial officer, Jon Slade, was also included.

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