Tech giant Google has issued a welcome change to its publisher-related policies, by ending the first-click free rule. Previously, in order to gain a good search rank, Google insisted publishers provided users with three free articles, before introducing a paywall.
Now, however, news publishers are able to choose how many free articles, if any, they offer, before requesting payment for a subscription. Google introduced the policy a decade ago, on the premise that users should be able to access the news in their online search results.
The change in Google’s policy comes as a number of news producers and publishers were unhappy with the system. They said it stopped them running their own publishing business on their terms.
Indeed, News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal, stopped abiding by Google’s rules in 2016. While it moved lower in search rankings, the number of WSJ subscriptions rose.
The US tech company has run some tests with The Financial Times and The New York Times to discover more about how beneficial the one-click free policy was to publishers. Google also gained its own data results on user’s behaviour.
As a result, Google has removed the requirement for publishers to provide free news, if it doesn’t fit with their own plans. The online giant has also discussed plans of its own to begin a subscription service.
“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. “People come to Google looking for high-quality content, and our job is to help them find it.”
The business is now investigating ways in which it can help make the news subscription process much simpler for users.
Google adds this isn’t about introducing another revenue stream for its business. However, if it can make the user experience of beginning a subscription with a news publisher an easier process, it will likely come at a cost to publishers.