Google is open to abolishing its 'first click free' rule in a major shift in how it deals with content locked behind paywalls.
The revelation was made by News Corp global CEO Robert Thomson at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference.
News Corp is locked in negotiations with Google about how to make the search platform more accommodating to publishers as they migrate away from ad-funded business models to online subscriptions.
Google's 'first click free' feature means publishers have to provide one-click access to paywalled articles to avoid being punished with low Google rankings. The search giant has previously announced it is revamping the feature but has not indicated it could abolish it.
“If you don’t sign up for 'first click free' you virtually disappear from a search. And given the power of that Google platform, that is disadvantaging premium content of great provenance,” Thomson said.
“There are many things to be negotiated, but just as a sign of a significant change, an inflection point of the Internet, Google has indicated to us that they’ll bring 'first click free' to an end.
“I’ve probably been more critical in public of Google than any person, and I want to praise [Google CEO Sundar Pichai] for heading in the right direction....their willingness to end 'first click free' should be celebrated by all publishers.
“That will fundamentally change the content ecosystem, and not just for us but for many publishers; it will allow the creation of coherent, viable subscription models.”
Google is also exploring new tools around online payments and targeting potential subscribers. Facebook is also working on subscription tools inside Instant Articles.
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