Google relaxes rules on free news stories, plans subscription tools

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's "first click free" policy in exchange for prominence in its search results was largely loathed by publishers who hated being forced to provide readers free content", said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

Google is removing a controversial search feature called First Click Free, which let users view content that would otherwise be behind a paywall. However, the search engine giant on Monday has rewired its big engine to help appease those same publishers. Now, publishers that decide to opt out of Flexible Sampling won't be demoted in Google search rankings. This will allow news outlets to fully enable the paid subscription model if they saw fit, and offer as many free articles as they wanted to new visitors if any.

Google suggests it is working together with web publishers to simplify what ever transaction form they wish to go after in order that it's less hard for end users to make the decision what they would like to pay money for. Google at present is relying on relaxed rules and subscription software that is under construction to stop the Wall Street Journal and other publishers from keeping important content.

"Google search is valuable because there's a rich ecosystem out there", Gingras said. It has also been testing this new system with the Financial Times and the New York Times. Google has a hard courtship publicly with other online publishers as well.

But digital subscriptions are rising rapidly for major established newspapers.




Instead, the company will now allow publishers the freedom to choose the number of free articles users can read when found through Google's search engine. Both platforms are still capable of delivering millions of readers to publishers, and the prospect of that power being used to drive subscriptions is undoubtedly tempting. Google is still taking aim at one way that publishers garner ad revenue on websites - auto-playing video.

Google is recommending monthly metering offering 10 stories per month, rather than a daily allowance to free articles, because it means publishers can gauge appetite for their content and target those more likely to subscribe on a "try before you buy" basis. Google and Facebook combined will account for 60 percent of the United States digital advertising market this year, according to the research firm eMarketer.

As part of its push, Google is working to make subscibing to publishers easier like single-click sign-ups through Android devices and Google services.

Publishers, rejoice: First Click Free is dead. Google Now wants to simplify this with a shorter purchasing process.

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