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Google Ends ‘First Click Free’ Policy

Under pressure from publishers worldwide, Google has decided to immediately end their First Click Free (FCF) policy, replacing it with a fairer model called Flexible Sampling.

In a post on Google’s official blog, Richard Gingras, Vice President of News for the company, said that publishers, as opposed to Google, “are in the best position to determine what level of free sampling works best for them.”

Under FCF rules, publishers were required to provide, at a bare minimum, three free articles per day via both Google Search and Google News before their readers would be shown a paywall.

Flexible Sampling operates on a model whereby publishers choose how many free articles they offer to readers, if they choose to offer any at all. Gingras recommended around 10 a month as “a good starting point” in his post.

The decision to replace FCF with Flexible Sampling was undertaken partially after experiments and discussions that were held with both The New York Times and The Financial Times.

Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times, praised Google’s decision as a step in the right direction, and indicated they would continue to work with Google “to craft smart solutions”.

Another company who was excited about the change was News Corp. Robert Thomson, the chief executive, said last month at a conference that “if you don’t sign up for ‘first click free’, you virtually disappear from a search.”

In a statement released in response to Google’s announcement, he rejoiced the move as a victory for both consumers and journalists alike.

“The felicitous demise of First Click Free is an important first step in recognising the value of legitimate journalism. The impact will be profoundly positive for journalists everywhere and for the cause of informed societies.”

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