Google to drop 'first click free' for subscription sites

Google to drop 'first click free' for subscription sites”

Google is to abandon its controversial policy of forcing news providers to offer free articles in order to appear on its search engine as part of a collection of measures created to support the growth of digital subscriptions.

Scrapping what was known as the First Click Free Policy, Google is dropping any such requirement to provide free access to content.

Richard Gingras, vice-president of news at Google, announced the death of the controversial policy on 2 October in a blog post.

However, over the years, the rule has drawn serious flak from leading organizations, including Axel Springer and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, for affecting their paywall revenues.

From hereon, publishers will be able to choose how many, if any, free articles they want to offer to Google searchers.

These include enabling users to log in with their Google passwords in order to subscribe and sharing user data with news sites so the latter can target subscribers. But after some negative comments from those in the industry, Google tested out its new plan with some heavy hitters like the New York Times and the Financial Times. With sites like The Wall Street Journal and others enabling paywalls to view their content, this policy was meant to increase sales of these services to some extent. People come to Google looking for high-quality content, and our job is to help them find it.

"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".

Among other recommendations the search giant suggests that publishers which use a subscription model make 10 articles a month available for free though they are under no obligation to do that.

The WSJ quoted Google's chief business officer Philipp Schindler as saying: "We really recognise the transition to digital for publishers hasn't been easy".

But apart from a few publications, online subscriptions haven't taken off as intended, and media companies such as Wall Street Journal parent News Corp. increasingly complained that freeloading users were cutting into sales.

In addition to this, Gingras announced that Google will introduce new tools to these sites, that allows them to sell a subscription to a new visitor with the payment information that the company has on file - that being if you have a registered credit card on the Play Store for instance.

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