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What Google’s End to ‘First Click Free’ Could Mean

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Google drops controversial news serving model

Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google has yielded to the demands of publishers and ended its controversial online news service “first click free” program. Under this model, Google required news publishers that offer their content on a paid subscription basis to agree to allow free access to a certain minimum number of articles in a day or a month.

But news organizations such as the New York Times, which is owned by the New York Times Company (NYT), and the Wall Street Journal, owned by News Corp (NWSA), protested Google’s program as they considered it to be an unprofitable model.

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Flexible sampling replaces first click free

As part of its efforts to warm its relationship with publishers, Google dropped the “first click free” model and replaced it with a “flexible sampling” model, under which Google won’t require newspapers to provide a certain minimum number of their articles free of charge to readers coming to their sites via the Google search engine.

Loss of advertising revenue for newspapers

The rise of online advertising has helped Internet companies such as Google, Facebook (FB), and Twitter (TWTR) at the expense of newspaper publishers, given the decline in print advertising sales. In response to the loss of advertising revenues, some newspapers have put up paywalls to try to monetize their digital content via subscriptions. But models such as Google’s “first click free” limited the ability of news publishers to collect subscriptions for their content.

Google’s move to scrap the program should give newspapers more control over the monetization of their digital content.

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