Google To End Controversial 'First Click Free' Policy

Google To End Controversial 'First Click Free' Policy

Google To End Controversial 'First Click Free' Policy

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. However, instead of forcing publishers to allow a user three free articles a day, it will now allow them to "experiment with different free sampling schemes" themselves, Google said.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., said it also plans tools to help increase subscriptions, including enabling users to log in with their Google passwords to simplify the subscription process and sharing user data with news organizations to better target potential subscribers.

Google is now banking on its relaxed policies and developing subscription tools to prevent major media houses and publications from holding back adequate content. It had been widely decried by publishers, as not signing up for the scheme meant that articles published would not list as highly in Google search results. This is due to the fact that sites that come with a paywall have reached "critical mass" according to Google, and requires the company to develop specific tools for them.

Similarly, Google will use its existing identity and payment infrastructures to enable easier signups for people who want to subscribe to particular publications.

Google's users seek high-quality content, the company said, and while its search engine is there to help users find that content, sometimes it is behind a paywall.

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First Click Free was a Google policy that required publishers to offer a set number of articles for free, or risk losing their ranking in search results.

Publishers, rejoice: First Click Free is dead. "Google's decision to let publishers determine how much content readers can sample from search is a positive development", said Kinsey Wilson, an adviser to New York Times CEO Mark Thompson in a statement.

"Google appears honest in its intent to help publishers drive more subscriptions", said Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insights at the Local Search Association.

Google said on Monday that it's partnering with publishers to figure out how to better support outlets that rely on subscription models.

"It's extremely clear that advertising alone can no longer pay for the production and distribution of high quality journalism and at the same time the societal need for sustainable independent journalism has never been greater". Google says it drives 10 billion clicks a month to publishers' sites. "The Financial Times is welcoming of Google's input and actions to help this critical sector of the media industry".

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