After more than a decade, Google is reversing one of its more controversial Search-related policies.
Starting this week, online publishers that operate websites with paywalls will no longer be required to provide Search and News users with three free articles per day or risk less prominent search results as part of the company’s ‘First Click Free’ policy.
The move comes after major publications, like the Wall Street Journal, stopped adhering to First Click Free. In its case, the WSJ‘s August 2017 online traffic originating from Google Search and Google News dropped by 38 and 89 percent respectively, compared to the same period last year. However, over the same time frame, the publication’s subscriptions increased.
In its defence, Google previously argued that its First Click Free policy would lead to increased subscriptions down the road. Few publishers noted that the policy played out that way, however.
Moving forward, as part of a new policy called ‘Flexible Sampling,’ publishers will be able to choose how many — if any — free articles they want to offer to Search and News users. As a starting point, Google recommends publications offer its users 10 free articles a month.
Google also announced that it’s working on free software that will make it easier for Search and News users to sign up for an online news subscription. Using information they’ve already provided to Google, users will be able to sign up for a subscription in as little as one click, according to the American search giant.