Google Ends "First Click Free" Program

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The search engine giant on Monday said it would end a decade-old policy that requires publishers to provide some free stories to Google users.

Google has ended its controversial First-Click-Free policy that allowed readers to access some news content hidden behind a paywall.

He also revealed that alongside dropping the "first click free" policy, Google would be introducing a new suite of products and services to help publishers find new audiences and drive subscriptions while also simplifying the purchase process as well.

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the US print edition of The Wall Street Journal (October 2, 2017).

In 2009, Google updated the first click free policy so publishers could set a limit of five free articles per day.

Instead of forcing subscription-based publishers to provide three free articles before users reach a pay wall, the USA company will offer a more flexible sampling model whereby the providers will decide how many articles, if any, it offers on a free view basis.

Google is clearly still keen to have some free articles available via search.

"That resistance is understandable on one level, but it also demonstrates the industry's short memory", he told the E-Commerce Times. From the publishers' perspective, many readers became too comfortable with the belief that online content always should be free. The news of the impending change in Google's much-criticized rule was first revealed by News Corp's chief executive Robert Thomson. 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.

As part of this new strategy, Google also wants to make it easier for users to subscribe to online publications.

The metering will go by month, rather than the previous three articles daily model that was in force, allowing more time for publishers to experiment and target those more likely to subscribe.

Gingras recommended that publishers use the new feature to offer 10 free articles a month to users without a subscription.

Google is now banking on its relaxed policies and developing subscription tools to prevent major media houses and publications from holding back adequate content.

The relationship between Google and many publishers has often been characterised by conflicts in past.

Google and Facebook are expected to hoover up the majority of digital advertising spend in the United Kingdom for the first time this year as print advertising declines. It will reportedly not demote any news agency in results if they have little or no free content.

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