Google is discontinuing its First Click Free (FCF) policy that is criticized by media giants like The Wall Street Journal. According to FCF, the subscription publishers have to provide three free articles for Google Search. The paid wall comes after free article. The policy was questioned by non-participants.
The Wall Street Journal criticized the policy for being discriminating towards the non-participants. It said in its complaints that it noticed sharp decrease in its web traffic in comparison to its competitors that are participating in FCF. The policy was to allow subscription websites to participate in Google Search for greater visibility. It worked well for some time but soon publishers started opting out of it.
Flaws in FCF
According to Google, it needs free samples to be displayed in Google Search and News. It was determined that the publishers would provide at least three free articles per day for display but sometimes more free content was required. Also the publishers were free to join and opt out of the FCF program. Google noticed its flaws and soon upgraded the free sampling policy to flexible sampling marketing program where the publishers are provided greater freedom in selection and display of free samples.
Free sampling is upgraded to Flexible Sampling to bring more transparency in the policy. FCF is diluted to provide flexibility to publishers that can now choose content for sampling and improve their subscriptions. Google has promised to strengthen the website subscription by allowing more free content. Now publishers can determine number of free articles according to their needs. But Google needs a monthly cap over free publications. It has recommended monthly metering and capped the number of free samples at 10.
Google working on improving prescription
Google is planning to utilize preset subscription process of websites and improving the process to single click. Google plans to use common sign up process for subscription because websites have different subscription models. But it is a temporary plan as Google’s aim is to develop a subscription model that suits to every need. In short, it wants all the sites to use a common subscription model.
It is learnt that Google is working on a specific machine learning component that will sense intent and extend right offer to the searchers. Google believes that simplifying subscription model will increase subscription in the long run. By offering one model for subscription, Google wants to improve its relations with publishers.
Business of free sampling
Google considers that free articles are needed to promote subscription. The idea is to let the visitors taste samples and determine value of subscriptions. Since subscribing websites will become easier, visitors would have no problem in paying for subscription content.
Closing FCF is a big step by Google but it isn’t the end of road but opening of a new avenue called Flexible Sampling. Google wants to improve the subscription model to give more space to its subscription partners. The impact of the new Flexible Sampling policy will be visible in some time.