Google had aligned several protocols to ensure the growth of digital subscription for news articles online. One such move was the ‘First Click Free’ policy that mandated the news providers to publish free articles in order to rise up the order on the search engine. The move that was supposed to aid the news publishing houses’ digital growth, backfired for many reasons. As per News Corp (which publishes The Sun in the US), the move meant that if the articles weren’t provided for free, then the site virtually disappeared from the search rankings, proving to be harmful to the overall online marketing strategies of the publishers.
What is changing?
As per the ‘First Click Free’ policy, subscription-based publishing needs to comply with Google’s demands of providing the first three articles for free before opening the ‘subscribe for more news’ dialog box. This was the only way they could come up on search engine query results. By ending this move, Google will now allow publishers to decide how many articles they want to provide for free before they show the paywall (the ‘subscribe for more news’ dialog box) to the users.
What does it mean for news publishers?
Nielsen’s study reported that around 20% of the readers were fine with to pay for the subscription of premium content published by the known news agencies and publishers, provided it is ad-free. While the market is there, news publishers must strike a fine balance between monetizing their premium content and ranking well on search engines.
For news publishers, Google’s decision to remove the ‘First Click Free’ policy provides advantages at many levels –
1 – As subscription-based news access is gaining popularity, news publishers can set their monetization strategies without the fear of distributing it for free.
2 – The occurrence of fake news will go down as publishers and reporters will be incentivized for working hard, putting in their best efforts, and bringing only factual information as news to the public.
3 – News publishers promoting premium news content can build a stronger relationship with their readers and craft an enduring brand loyalty
What it means for the end readers?
For the content consumers, the move offers a mixed bag of scenarios. On one end, they will now be able to access better-quality content knowing that the publishers will be working doubly hard to retain subscriptions and build loyalty.
On the other hand, they can no longer get a feel of the website without subscribing to it. However, this is expected to be a minor obstacle, as reputed news publishers would have already proved their mettle with a stellar background. This will provide the impetus for serious readers to go ahead with the subscription without the need to try it out for free first.
In order to make the monetization strategy truly successful, content publishers will have to elevate the degree of user experience and reader delight they provide to consumers. The overall browsing on the site should be as clutter-free, seamless, and free of ads. This is the way forward now that Google’s ‘First Click Free’ policy is no longer around.