This morning, Google announced an update to First Click Free and other initiatives to help support digital subscriptions for publishers. Some notable changes include replacing the First Click Free policy – which we have strongly objected to for some time — with “Flexible Sampling.” This should allow news publishers to decide what level of free sampling works best for them without being deprioritized in search results for limiting access or imposing paywalls.
Google also announced the development of a suite of products and services that would support news publishers’ efforts to reach and monetize new audiences. Google’s stated intention is to help publishers mitigate lower barriers against digital subscriptions for users.
These are strong and good steps forward by Google, and we are happy to see them. The changes to First Click Free are certainly a great improvement over current policies. With respect to the rest of the suite, it appears that they could provide good subscription options for some publishers, but we will simply have to see how the optimization and transaction tools are implemented over time.
In all respects, the Alliance will continue to fight for news publishers and their access to subscribers, data and advertising revenue. At the end of the day, the proof will be in whether or not news publishers get a better return for their investments in high quality journalism.
David Chavern is former President & CEO of the News/Media Alliance. Chavern has 30 years of experience in executive strategic and operational roles. Prior to the Alliance, he completed a decade-long tenure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.