October 2, 2017 Last Updated 4:25 pm

Digital publishers generally applaud news of end of Google’s ‘First Click Free’ policy

The move should help publishers with their subscription strategies, and may ease some concerns of European regulators who have targeted Google for their search policies

The search giant Google today announced the end to their ‘First Click Free’ policy in favor of a Flexible Sampling model. Now, publishers will be able to decide how many, if any, free articles they want readers to be able to access.

“While research has shown that people are becoming more accustomed to paying for news, the sometimes painful process of signing up for a subscription can be a turn off,” Richard Gingras, VP News, Google, wrote today om Google’s The Keyword blog. “That’s not great for users or for news publishers who see subscriptions as an increasingly important source of revenue.”

Google’s First Click Free policy required publishers to provide at least three free articles per day via Google Search and Google News before people were shown a paywall.

Google has been experimenting with the change, working with some publishers prior to the announcement. An example of this is News Corp’s The Australian, where a search for reaction to the announcement can be found in a story on News Corp’s Robert Thomson supposedly having good things to say about the change. But The Australian is behind a solid paywall so linking to the story, or grabbing his reaction is a waste of time as it would lead you directly into the paywall (which is why TNM rarely links to either the WSJ or The Australian). Knowing this, I suppose, News Corp released a statement with Thomson’s comments.

Reaction has been generally positive:

  • Edward Roussel, chief innovation officer of Dow Jones: “The end of First Click Free opens up a whole new world. It has the potential to mean millions of dollars a year gets ploughed back into journalism.”
  • Robert Thomson, News Corp: “There’s a lot more to negotiate, there’s a long way to go, but their willingness to end ‘First Click Free’ should be celebrated by all publishers.”
  • Jon Slade, FT Chief Commercial Officer: “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. Reader-based revenue, aka paid-content, or subscription services, are therefore not just a nice-to-have, but an essential component of a publisher’s revenue composition.”

Of course, Google still is hoping most publishers using paywalls will still allow readers some access, recommending that “for most publishers, 10 articles per month is a good starting point.”

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