Google plays nice with publishers, ditches “first click free” policy
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Google plays nice with publishers, ditches “first click free” policy

Getting visibility in Google News is a major goal for publishers big and small. The service is so powerful that they pretty much have to accede to Google’s demands if they want to succeed online. But that doesn’t mean they have to be happy about it. One of the policies that publishers have been most concerned by in the past is Google’s “first click free”. This basically states that online publications have to make at least three of their articles free to read before subscription in order to get ranked in Google News. But now, the search engine giant is rethinking its stance.

Google’s share price is up 22% so far this year


SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

Google’s reasoning for “first click free” is pretty obvious: they don’t want their news results to be clogged up with lots of articles searchers can’t access. Providing a high quality service that gets the best news in front of people, without forcing them to scour the net unaided, or subscribe to online news sources, is what made Google News so popular in the first place. But even Google has to listen to the people it is in business with, and “first click free” has been wildly unpopular. News Corp’s Axel Springer has gone as far as calling the policy “toxic” and he is not alone.

Robert Thompson, also from News Corp, has praised the policy’s shelving: “If you don’t sign up for ‘first click free’, you virtually disappear from a search. Given the power of that Google platform, that is disadvantaging premium content of great provenance.” He added that removing the policy would “fundamentally change the content ecosystem.”

Instead, Google is likely to leave the choice over how much content users can access before hitting a paywall up to publishers. Richard Gingras, vice president of news at Google, made the following statement in a company blog:

“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. People come to Google looking for high-quality content, and our job is to help them find it. However, sometimes that content is behind a paywall.

“While research has shown that people are becoming more accustomed to paying for news, the sometimes painful process of signing up for a subscription can be a turn off. That’s not great for users or for news publishers who see subscriptions as an increasingly important source of revenue.

“To address these problems we’ve been talking to news publishers about how to support their subscription businesses.”


Dominion holds Alphabet, the parent company of Google, in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.

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