Recently the search engine behemoth Google has announced to cease its “first click free” policy. Under the policy, news websites were obliged to offer readers free access to three free articles a day in order to appear high up in the search engine’s listings. The First Click Free policy was heavily disliked and criticized ( described as toxic) by the publishers and media because it required a limited amount of free content from them before readers could be subjected to a paywall.
Instead Google will offer a “Flexible Sampling” model that allows news organizations to decide how many, if any, articles it offers for free. The flexible sampling model will allow publishers to decide how many, if any, free articles they want to provide, while still being able to provide the complete content of an article to Google. In a blog post, Google’s Vice President News, Richard Gingras said, “We will end our ‘First Click Free’ policy in favour of a ‘Flexible Sampling’ model where publishers will decide how many, if any, free articles they want to provide to potential subscribers based on their own business strategies.” The company is also exploring how Google’s machine learning capabilities can help publishers recognize potential subscribers and present the right offer to the right audience at the right time.
The elimination of First Click Free appears to be a boon and massively welcomed and celebrated by the publishers all over the world. Gingras further added “Our goal is to make subscriptions work seamlessly everywhere, for everyone.” Many online readers may not notice a change overnight unless they visit a particular site several times a month without subscribing. Newspaper companies that do cut off readers tend to do so after a certain monthly allotment of free stories. The Times offers 10 free articles, for example; the Boston Globe, two.
Among the changes announced by Google:
Google is making the move after feedback from publishers and readers and after tests with the New York Times and the Financial Times. The typical approach to sampling is a model called metering, which lets people see a pre-determined number of free stories before a paywall kicks in. Google decided to offer more flexibility to publishers based on additional research, feedback from publishers. The company is working with the publishers to streamline whatever payment mode they would like to pursue so that it becomes easier for the users to decide what they wish to pay for. The dropping of First Click Free is likely to please news outlets that rely on subscription services for revenue.