Google introduced its "First Click Free" policy nearly a decade ago to help paywall-using publishers better monetize their content. It lets users see a little bit of content for free without giving them free access to everything. The idea is that users will pay (or register in some cases) to be able to view all of a publisher's articles.
In 2009, Google updated the policy to let users get access to five articles per day. The company says this was an effort to protect publishers "who felt some users were abusing the spirit of this policy."
Now, Google is changing the policy to reduce the number of articles users can read to 3. The company says it has heard from publishers about the need to revisit it policy to reflect the mobile, multi-device world. The policy now reads:
First click free: We've worked with subscription-based news services to arrange that the very first article seen by a Google News user (identifiable by referrer) doesn't require a subscription. Although this first article can be seen without subscribing, any further clicks on the article page will prompt the user to log-in or subscribe to the news site.
This is our preferred solution since it can benefit both our users and our publisher partners. It allows Googlebot to fully index your content, which can improve the likelihood of users visiting your site; and it allows users to view the article of interest while also encouraging them to subscribe.
It is possible to limit the number of free articles that a Google News reader can access via First Click Free. A user coming from the domain [*.google.*] must be able to see a minimum of 3 articles per day. This practice is described as “metering” the user: when the user has clicked on too many of a publisher’s articles from Google News, the meter for freely accessible articles on that site is exhausted. If your site meters access on a weekly or monthly basis, you are still responsible for showing a minimum of three articles per day to Google users. Otherwise, your site will be treated as a subscription site.
If your site has been set up using the First Click Free model but you are being labeled as "subscription" in Google News, please contact us so we can help.
The rest of the old guidelines (for both Google News and Google Search) still apply.
Publishers can elect to apply First Click Free to specific sections of their sites, only for Google News, or only for Google Search should they choose to do so.
Image via Google