Back in June, the Wall Street Journal shared that Google traffic to its sites fell after ending the “first click free” practice of offering full access to articles behind a paywall. The program has always been a source of consternation for publishers and Google is finally ending the practice.
Google has long argued that giving Search users full access to articles behind paywalls will ultimately incentivize subscriptions. They believe it is important for users to be able to quickly read articles without restrictions.
In fact, their algorithms punish sites that don’t provide a “first click free” model due to not being able to scan the article or only a snippet. The WSJ saw a 44% drop in Search traffic after removing the practice earlier this year.
News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson revealed today that Google is going to end the “first click free” program and letting publications choose how users access their sites from Search. The WSJ reports that as part of the new, upcoming arrangement Google Search will be given access to the full text of an article, instead of just the summary provided to non-subscribers.
Google will still allow websites to give Search users a free sample, though there is no penalization for sites that don’t.
Talks between Google and companies are still underway, but many are cheering this decision. Thomson has long been a critic of this Google practice, but a meeting with Sundar Pichai in July led to a breakthrough. The News Corp. was quoted as saying, “Sundar deserves a lot of credit for taking a different approach.”
Google has yet to confirm the policy change and it’s unknown when it will get into effect.