Google is rewiring its search engine by ending 'first click free' 

VP-news at Google announced it today in a blog

In a move to appease its once staunch critics, Google has decided to roll back its decade-old “first click free” policy which required news websites to give readers free access to articles from Google’s search results. The internet giant has also announced that it would be building products and exploring artificial intelligence to help publishers find new audiences and drive subscriptions.

Earlier, Google would list articles higher in search results if the publishers would offer some stories for free. But apart from a few publications, online subscriptions did not take off as intended and media giants like News Corp. increasingly complained that freeloading users were cutting into their sales.

There were then reports that Google was in talks with media giants like News Corp, The New York Times and the FT to let publishers set limits to how many articles they will allow users to read for free. With the change in policy now, Google would be indexing all subscription news outlets in its search engine and let publishers decide how many articles to provide for free. It will reportedly not demote any news agency in results if they have little or no free content.

Talking about this change, the CEO at News Corp., Robert Thomson said it “will fundamentally change the content ecosystem” by supporting “the creation of coherent viable subscription models.”

The unit of Alphabet Inc. has reportedly not yet agreed on new revenue-sharing terms with the publishers, but “it will be a very generous model”, said Richard Gingras, vice-president of news at Google, while announcing the new policy in a blog post today.

New publishers have reportedly lobbied for this change in Google’s policy so that stories behind paywalls get parity in search rankings with those available for free. Google has, however, denied changing its algorithm: “The algorithm has never biased free content versus paid content,” Gingras added.

Talking about how artificial intelligence can help publishers increase subscription sales, Gingras stated that the company is “exploring how Google’s machine-learning capabilities can help publishers recognise potential subscribers and present the right offer to the right audience at the right time”.



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