Google is nixing a policy that punishes news sites that require readers to pay for a subscription in order to access content, the company announced Monday.
The now-defunct policy known as “First Click Free” (FCF) mandates that publishers must provide access to a limited number of articles free of charge before implementing a paywall. Failure to comply would result in a demotion for search engine results, something that has allegedly affected certain outlets. The Wall Street Journal, for example, claims that its traffic from Google searches has been reduced by 38 percent in the last year, due to the lower placement in the platform’s rankings. Additionally, its traffic from Google News has decreased by 89 percent in that same timespan.
“While research has shown that people are becoming more accustomed to paying for news, the sometimes painful process of signing up for a subscription can be a turn off,” Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, wrote in a blog post. “That’s not great for users or for news publishers who see subscriptions as an increasingly important source of revenue.”
Players in the media industry have been coalescing in recent months to amplify protests against Google’s (and Facebook’s) large stake in their revenue and general growing power. Media organizations, including giants like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, are banding together under the coalition known as the News Media Alliance (NMA) to earn more from the online advertisement revenue market. The group is petitioning federal lawmakers to provide them an exemption from antitrust regulations, according to multiple reports. Such a reclassification would allow media organizations to collectively negotiate with the two tech conglomerates, which is important for the industry’s attempts to earn more ad revenue and end Google and Facebook’s hegemony. (RELATED: Facebook And Google Dominate More Than Just Ad Revenue)
Press Gazette, a British media outlet, launched a petition in April in an attempt to stop Facebook and Google from “destroying journalism” by hogging digital ad revenue from traditional news publishers.
Gingras says that they have been collaborating with news publishers to address such problems. Along with the removal of FCF, Google is “building a suite of products and services to help news publishers reach new audiences, drive subscriptions and grow revenue.”
It still wants to encourage news outlets to give some amount of free articles since it may “persuade people to buy their product.”
Facebook is also working with media organizations in a similar respect, but may be going in a different direction.
The social media company turned tech conglomerate is considering making users pay for news content. The payment process, though, is still being determined, according to a source familiar with the proposal, so it is not clear if and how much of the profits will be going to the publishers or Facebook.
“We are in early talks with several news publishers about how we might better support subscription business models on Facebook,” said Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook and a former CNN anchor. “As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we are taking the time to work closely together with our partners and understand their needs,” she continued, referring to a proposal that may be integrated into a feature called Instant Articles. (RELATED: Google, Facebook Are Super Upset They May No Longer Be Able To Sell Your Internet Data Without Permission)
Regardless of any changes to the platforms and their protocol, Google and Facebook will likely continue their respective dominance in the digital advertising market.
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