San Francisco, London – Following complaints from media giants like News Corp that their sales were suffering, Google has announced that subscription news websites would no longer have to provide users three free articles per day or face less prominence in search results, relaxing its rules.
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 Inc., had contended that free samples would lead to increased subscriptions.
But apart from a few publications, online subscriptions haven’t taken off as intended, and media companies such as Wall Street Journal parent News Corp. increasingly complained that freeloading users were cutting into sales.
This year, the Wall Street Journal stopped abiding by Google’s policy, corresponding to a drop in search rankings but an increase in subscriptions.
According to Reuters, Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president for news noted: “Over the last year, we got clear indications that, yes, it was going to be important for publishers to grow subscription revenues.”
He said the number of news outlets with paywalls had reached a critical mass in the last year, to the point that it made sense for Google to start developing tools for them.
From here on, publishers will be able to choose how many, if any, free articles they want to offer to Google searchers. 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.