Google has announced that it is doing away with its “first click free” program. That policy required paywalled websites to offer at least three stories for free to Google Search and News users. That meant, for example, that users who wanted to read a particular article in The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times could search for the article on Google and read it without paying the subscription fees that those sites usually charge. When websites decided, as The Wall Street Journal eventually did, not to comply with the policy, Google demoted their pages in search results.
Now, Google is eliminating that “first click free” requirement and replacing it with “flexible sampling.” This new policy lets publishers decide how many articles they will allow users to read for free each month. The company encourages websites to offers six to ten free articles every month, but it will not demote them in search results if they do not comply.
Not surprisingly, subscription-based websites have been applauding the new policy.