Google To End Controversial ‘First Click Free’ Policy

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Google has announced plans to eliminate its “first click free” policy, which forced news providers to allow readers access to articles for free if they wanted to appear in the search engine, according to Bloomberg. Google is taking this measure to promote digital subscriptions.


Under the “first click free” policy, readers can read at least one free article on a website before they are prompted to subscribe. Google will now offer the free sampling model to news organizations, empowering them to decide how many news articles they want to allow free access to before showing their paywall to the reader.

Google has realized that it is not getting the intended results with this policy, as there is no substantial increase in the number of subscriptions for other news websites, apart from just handful of them. In fact, The Wall Street Journal stopped abiding by Google’s policy this year, stating that it is not helping with subscriptions. In contrast, people reading articles free was cutting into its sales, notes Livemint.

In a press release, Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president for news, said, “Over the last year, we got clear indications that it was going to be important for publishers to grow subscription revenues.”

He added that enough news outlets with paywalls had reached a threshold which encouraged Google to start developing tools for them. Some of the biggest news agencies like News Corp applauded the decision by Google.

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said, “The felicitous demise of First Click Free (Second Click Fatal) is an important first step in recognizing the value of legitimate journalism and provenance on the internet.”

Thomson said they would keep a close watch on the new tools to make sure that people find their content on the Internet and will report what they learned, whether good or bad.

Gingras noted that the reaction to their efforts has been positive. However, he cautioned that it is not a “silver bullet” for the subscription market. The information space is pretty competitive, and people pay for content only when they perceive it to have value. He explained that Google has entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with publishers. This has given the publishers rights to use the company’s tools to customize features inside Google News for existing subscribers.

Google is now hoping that these new tools and software will encourage The Wall Street Journal and other publishers not to hold back valuable content. The California-based search engine giant stated that they would bat for the “metering” system to allow ten free articles per month to boost subscriptions.

The company is also interested in simplifying subscriptions by allowing users to pay with their Google and Android account rather than going through the lengthy payment process.

“We think we can get it down to one click, that would be superb,” Gingras said.

Google will share subscription data with news organizations to help them build customer relationships. The company is not looking to own their customers; rather, it will provide the name of the user, their email and, if necessary, their address, Gingras said.

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