Google looks to subscriptions as it ditches ‘free news’ rules

The search engine used to require publishers with paywalls to offer a few stories for free each day, but after complaints of declining revenue, it’s embracing a new model and partnership.


After years of contention, Google is working alongside publishers to boost content sales.

Once punished in search results unless they offered users three free articles per day, publishers with paywalls will now be indexed in search results with the same criteria as free websites.

CNBC reported:

For the last decade, Google’s “first click free” policy helped ensure that non-subscribers wouldn’t be stifled by paywalls when they clicked on news articles from searches.

Google, the largest component of Alphabet, had contended that free samples would lead to increased subscriptions.

The move comes after complaints from publishers such as News Corp suffered significant sales declines in recent years.

The Verge reported:

The Wall Street Journal notes that when News Corp (which owns the WSJ) diasabled free access to its articles via Google Search earlier in 2017, its stories were heavily demoted in search rankings. The WSJ says it experienced a 38 percent reduction in traffic from Google Search, and a loss of 89 percent from Google News in August compared to a year earlier. Now, publishers that decide to opt out of Flexible Sampling won’t be demoted in Google search rankings. Google is recommending publishers allow 10 free articles per month as “a good starting point.”

Publishers can now determine on their own how many free articles to let consumers view through the search engine and which should require a paywall. News Corp’s chief executive, Robert Thomson, said he expects it will change the publishing landscape and the way readers consume news.

As part of the deal, Google is also offering publishers tools to make it easier to sell their content.

CNBC reported:

Google also plans to launch free software in the coming months for publishers that enables users to pay for content with credit card information that they’ve previously supplied to the search giant.

The goal is to facilitate fast purchases that could take as little as a single click, Gingras said. Customers’ names and emails would be shared with the publishers.

A separate tool would give publishers data on how to maximize sign ups with personalized offers. Gingras said Google hasn’t determined whether it may charge a fee to recoup costs of that program.

The decision to work with publishers is also a recognition that the search giant stands to succeed when, not if, publishers do.

The Verge reported:

Google drives 10 billion clicks to publishers’ websites each month. Today’s change comes as a way to bolster Google’s position — the company can’t sell ads if print media fails to move online, so it has to promote the move to digital, not usurp it. “We really recognize the transition to digital for publishers hasn’t been easy,” Google chief business officer Philipp Schindler told the WSJ. “The economics are pretty clear: If publishers aren’t successful, we can’t be successful.”

Google has been meeting with publishers over the past several weeks about improving website load times and video performance. Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, told Bloomberg, “We’re basically all in on this one—heavily, heavily investing.”

What do you think of the announcement, PR Daily readers?

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