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Published: Tue, October 03, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Google will end 'first click free' policy

Google will end 'first click free' policy

By the end of this era, it will be the publishers' choice to allow as many free articles as they wish to and there are no more hidden terms and conditions that may increase the quantity of content on Google but result in a declining quality.

As part of its push, Google is working to make subscibing to publishers easier like single-click sign-ups through Android devices and Google services.

In a statement, Google said the rationale behind "First Click Free" was that readers need access to some content for free to decide whether they want to pay to read a website.

As for what it calls "Flexible sampling", there are two ways in which publication can do this. If you exhausted your supply of "free" paywalled articles for a site like NYT, you'd be out of luck until the day was over (or until you paid for a subscription).

Publishers will not be required to provide free content to be indexed.

Google is clearly still keen to have some free articles available via search. Google had a troubled public courtship with other publishers, too. The publishers will also be able to alter the presentation or content of the articles to fit with a certain audience.

The company is also exploring using its machine-learning capabilities to help publishers spot potential subscribers and present well timed, targeted and appealing offers.

Subscription-based news sites like the Financial Times and The Times have tended to give readers access to a small number of articles for free, before hitting them with a paywall. "We'd like to get the purchase process down to one click". Publishers will be free to ignore it, adopt it or modify it. And in cases where there's a payment card on file with Google it can enable one-click subscriptions. As for the mobile experience, it will be very important to improve this type of checkout experience. Pew Research Center data show that 85 percent of U.S. adults access news on mobile devices. Gingras said Google hasn't determined whether it may charge a fee to recoup costs of that program.

The move was welcomed by major publishers with subscription models. Organic results will not change or be impacted. "That's not great for users or for news publishers who see subscriptions as an increasingly important source of revenue", stated Gringrass.

Those challenges have caused years of budget cuts and staff reductions at news organizations, which Google says led it to act. This was known as the First Click Free policy and was meant to help drive traffic to sites that were not freely accessible all the time.

First Click Free is being replaced this week, but the other tools won't arrive until next year.

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