Google ends policy allowing access to paywall content

Google Unveils Tools to Increase Subscriptions for Publishers

"Journalism provides accurate and timely information when it matters most, shaping our understanding of important issues and pushing us to learn more in search of the truth", said vice-president of news at Google, Richard Gingras.

Google announced on Monday new steps to help struggling news organisations - including an end to a longstanding "first click free" (FCF) policy to generate fresh revenues for publishers hurt by the shift from print to digital.

Instead, Google will allow news outlets to choose the number of free stories they provide before the paywall appears. Google said articles from those publishers were demoted because its search engine didn't index stories that were locked behind paywalls. But apart from a few publications, online subscriptions did not take off as intended and media giants like News Corp. increasingly complained that freeloading users were cutting into their sales.

"Over the a year ago, we got clear indications that, yes, it was going to be important for publishers to grow subscription revenues", Richard Gingras, Google's vice president for news, told Reuters.

Moreover, Google will determine how it can simplify the purchase process, while making it easier for its users to get the full value from online subscriptions across the Google platform. Google labels articles that require subscriptions in Google News. The chairman of Axel Springer the publishing giant in Germany wrote in an open letter in 2014 that the company was afraid of Google.

The change follows "months-long experiments" with both the New York Times and Financial Times, he added, both of which have paywalls. Publishers generally recognise that giving people access to some free content is the way to persuade people to buy their product.




In months of testing with Google, reducing those free clicks from three to zero "generally improved" conversion to subscriptions, Wilson said.

This model is how First Click Free worked, and it is also already used by some publishers, such as the Dallas Morning News.

These changes will most likely see the emergence of a more flexible news model, with a level playing field for content discovery on the horizon.

"Google is certainly responding to the monetization and exposure concerns of the publishers", he told the E-Commerce Times.

Google says it will roll out a new version of its Chrome browser in January that won't let videos automatically play with sound. "This gives us more room to test the right number".

This strategy may help publishers, but those doing the clicking may become frustrated if paywall after paywall is all the results offer. Customer details like names and addresses would be shared with the publishers.

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