• Lab
  • AndroidForMobile Foundation at
    HOME
              
    LATEST STORY
    Bad news from Mashable, BuzzFeed, and Vice shows times are rough for ad-supported digital media
    ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
    Oct. 2, 2017, 10:20 a.m.
    Business Models

    Google ends its first-click-free policy as it looks to please publishers with new subscription tools

    “We’re also exploring how Google’s machine learning capabilities can help publishers recognize potential subscribers and present the right offer to the right audience at the right time.”

    It was a loophole that lasted for years. To get around news outlets with a hard paywall, readers could Google the articles they wanted to read, and access at least three otherwise-paywalled stories that way — a Google mandate known as “first click free.” Publishers like The Wall Street Journal, which for readers in February, saw .

    Google , now allowing subscription-based publishers to determine of their own free will how many articles to show readers before lowering the paywall. (Google .) From a by Google’s VP for news, Richard Gingras:

    We will end our First Click Free policy in favor of a Flexible Sampling model where publishers will decide how many, if any, free articles they want to provide to potential subscribers based on their own business strategies. This move is informed by our own research, publisher feedback, and months-long experiments with the New York Times and the Financial Times, both of which operate successful subscription services.

    “Try before you buy” underlines what many publishers already know — they need to provide some form of free sampling to be successful on the internet. If it’s too little, then fewer users will click on links to that content or share it, which could have an effect on brand discovery and subsequently may affect traffic over time.

    “The tests that we’ve done with them have been around looking at what it would mean to change the meter within Google — or as it was known, first-click-free. Basically, we were looking at what it would mean for user behavior and subscription conversion, if we were to change the meter to lower counts,” , the Times’ VP for audience and platforms, said. “We’re in frequent testing mode, so we’ll constantly be testing. There’s no plan for a particular number or even a change yet, necessarily. This gives us more room to test the right number.” (So it’s possible, for instance, that one person in a test group might get a different number of stories to access for free before hitting a paywall than a person in a different test group.)

    This , as Google ran tests with The New York Times and the Financial Times. Google also announced a coming suite of tools for publishers to facilitate smoother subscription signups. (Facebook’s working on something similar.) From Google:

    As a first step we’re taking advantage of our existing identity and payment technologies to help people subscribe on a publication’s website with a single click, and then seamlessly access that content anywhere — whether it’s on that publisher site or mobile app, or on Google Newsstand, Google Search or Google News.

    And since news products and subscription models vary widely, we’re collaborating with publishers around the world on how to build a subscription mechanism that can meet the needs of a diverse array of approaches — to the benefit of the news industry and consumers alike.

    We’re also exploring how Google’s machine learning capabilities can help publishers recognize potential subscribers and present the right offer to the right audience at the right time.

    Google has shared some high-level concepts with publishers like the Times, Grossman-Cohen said. No revenue-sharing has been discussed. The Financial Times didn’t make anyone available for an interview for this story; Google says it’s working on honing these products with a number of other major publishers around the world.

    Photo of Google by used under a Creative Commons license.

    POSTED     Oct. 2, 2017, 10:20 a.m.
    SEE MORE ON Business Models
    SHARE THIS STORY
       
    Show comments  
    Show tags
     
    Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
    Bad news from Mashable, BuzzFeed, and Vice shows times are rough for ad-supported digital media
    The rapid growth of Google and Facebook continues to take its toll on digital media companies.
    Asking members to support its journalism (no prizes, no swag), The Guardian raises more reader revenue than ad dollars
    The Guardian revamped its ask and its membership offerings — moving from 12,000 members in the beginning of 2016 to 300,000 today.
    Beating the 404 death knell: Singapore news startups struggle to cover costs and find their footing
    Political news reporting doesn’t seem to be holding up well as a business in the city-state. And it’s even harder when you’re seen as “alternative” media.