Google ends 'first click free' program that let users bypass some paywalls

Google ends 'first click free' program that let users bypass some paywalls

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.

The end of Google's "first click free policy", which required online publishers to offer at least three free articles before charging readers, is a good thing for "legitimate journalism", Robert Thomson, the Chief Executive of News Corp, said on Monday. For nearly a decade, the search engine adopted a policy of First Click Free which hampered the publishers' opportunity to post meaningful and insightful content. "There is a sense that those that are creating journalistic content are not getting appropriately rewarded and those that are intermediating, whether that is a search engine or a social media company, are essentially taking more of the value than they should", Mr. Newman told Sputnik.

Instead, Google is introducing a "Flexible Sampling" model which will allow subscription-based publishers to decide who many (if any at all) free articles they would like to provide. It'll also be working to offer seamless access to paywalled content across Google Newsstand, Search, and Google News.

Google is now hoping that these new tools and software will encourage The Wall Street Journal and other publishers not to hold back valuable content. News providers had to abide by this policy if they wanted to feature prominently and get top rank in Google Search results. Some of the biggest news agencies like News Corp applauded the decision by Google.




Google over the years has expanded its original focus to undertake everything from developing a mobile phone operating system to carrying out experimental projects, including development of autonomous vehicle technologies. Hence, enabling the non-subscribers to get access to free news without being haunted by the paid subscription offers when searching for news articles online. One of the company's goals, Mr. Gingras said, is to help "take the friction out of the purchase process" by using its own technological capabilities, as well as the information it has on users - including email address and credit cards - to make subscribing simpler. The chairman of Axel Springer the publishing giant in Germany wrote in an open letter in 2014 that the company was afraid of Google.

Richard Gingras, vice-president of news at Google, said the new policy aimed to benefit both the readers and publishers by streamlining subscription process and boosting subscription revenues. "That's not great for users or for news publishers who see subscriptions as an increasingly important source of revenue".

Google and Facebook are now taking the majority of the £10bn a year spent on digital advertising in the UK.

Google has been meeting with publishers over the past several weeks about improving website load times and video performance.

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