February 22, 2018

Bypassing Publisher Paywalls Via Google? Not Anymore

03 October 2017, 08:41 | Ruben Fields

15 2017. REUTERS Dado Ruvic IllustrationMore

15 2017. REUTERS  Dado Ruvic  IllustrationMore

Up until now, Google has forced all publishers to provide access to one webpage free of charge in order to be ranked highly in search results.

Google is ending its controversial First Click Free (FCF) policy that publishers loathed because it required them to allow Google search results access to news articles hidden behind a paywall. It's also working to allow seamless access to subscriber content across publisher sites, Google Newsstand, Google Search, and Google News.

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of articles that also appeared in the USA print edition of The Wall Street Journal (October 2, 2017).

First up it says Flexible Sampling will replace First Click Free.

The company's "first click free" policy has been in place for the last decade to help non-subscribers overcome paywalls when clicking on news articles from its search engine. Google said articles from those publishers were demoted because its search engine didn't index stories that were locked behind paywalls.

The change in Google's policy comes as a number of news producers and publishers were unhappy with the system. Google has a hard courtship publicly with other online publishers as well.

"It's really all an attempt to try to create a new world - a better world - for journalism", said Philipp Schindler, Google's chief business officer.

But digital subscriptions are rising rapidly for major established newspapers.

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Google's CEO Sundar Pichai has made subscriptions a priority and said he was involved very closely in numerous discussions with publishers. This model will enable publishers to choose how many articles, if any, that they will offer readers for free during a period of time.

"Our goal is to make subscriptions work seamlessly everywhere, for everyone", said Gingras.

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.

Google has shared some high-level concepts with publishers like the Times, Grossman-Cohen said.

Google and Facebook are now taking the majority of the £10bn a year spent on digital advertising in the UK.

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

The decision to rollback that policy and give control back to publishers is significant because it comes at a time when there's growing concern that Google-and other tech companies like Facebook and Amazon-have become too big and too powerful in the information market.

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