Monday, 18 December, 2017

Google to abandon "first click free" policy to assist digital publications industry

The moves come amid mounting criticism that online platforms are siphoning off the majority of revenues as more readers turn to digital platforms for news. Reuters file Google to abandon "first click free" policy to assist digital publications industry
Melba Vasquez | 03 October, 2017, 12:38

Once punished in search results unless they offered users three free articles per day, publishers with paywalls will now be indexed in search results with the same criteria as free websites. However, at the same time, it's encouraging them to also leave a number of articles free, so that they can appear in Search results. Only when these visitors clicked off of the article would they be shown the the signup form when they click off of the article.

Well, it's the old motto "why pay for something if you can get it for free?".

Media companies increasingly complained that freeloading users were cutting into sales.

Any publisher refusing (like NewsCorp attempted earlier this year) would find their search rankings would tank.

For their part, Google is suggesting that publishers offer 10 free articles per month-as well as free previews of a portion of other articles-in order to encourage users to familiarize themselves enough to want to pay for access.

He also said that the number of news websites with rising paid subscriptions have shown a significant rise since a year ago.

"Ideally we'd like to have a subscription process that is one click", said Richard Gingras, Google's vice president of news. "Basically, we were looking at what it would mean for user behavior and subscription conversion, if we were to change the meter to lower counts", Rebecca Grossman-Cohen, the Times' VP for audience and platforms, said. From the publishers' perspective, many readers became too comfortable with the belief that online content always should be free.

Publishers are acutely aware that some level of free sampling is required of majority to be successful online, but this new scheme will give them greater control over how it is distributed. Ten articles per month is the recommended starting point.

How are they planning to do this?

For years, readers took advantage of a well-known loophole that allowed them to access Journal articles simply by searching for the headline in Google.

Gingras said that publishers generally recognise that giving people access to some free content is the way to persuade people to buy their product. The "First Click Free" policy - described as toxic by some large publishers - has been replaced by "Flexible Sampling".

In July, news outlets sought permission from Congress for the right to negotiate jointly with Google and Facebook, given the duo's dominance in online advertising and online news traffic.

Will publishers be charged for this service?

Gingras said Google hasn't determined whether it may charge a fee to recoup costs of that program. News providers had to abide by this policy if they wanted to feature prominently and get top rank in Google Search results. "So the health of the open Web is very intrinsic to the nature of our business".

He explained people are becoming more accustomed to paying for news, but that a "sometimes painful process of signing up for a subscription can be a turn-off".

What do publishers think of the decision?

It's Google's most significant step yet to to curry favor with news organizations that provide information for its search engine but have lost ad revenue from the rise of the internet.

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