Google offers an olive branch to publishers - but will they want it?

03 October, 2017, 08:39 | Author: Devin Moran
  • The moves come amid mounting criticism that online platforms are siphoning off the majority of revenues as more readers turn to digital platforms for news. Reuters file

"Try before you buy" underlines what many publishers already know - they need to provide some form of free sampling to be successful on the internet.

While Google believed that free samples would encourage users to subscribe to their favourite news sites, this hasn't been the case and large media companies have argued against the company's policy. Now, the end of this policy by the search engine means that from now on journalists and content writers will have a higher return on their content in monetary terms.

The policy will now be scrapped and in its place Google will institute Flexible Sampling. This has given the publishers rights to use the company's tools to customize features inside Google News for existing subscribers. For example, when The Wall Street Journal stopped giving free tasters of its content earlier this year, its traffic from Google users plunged by 44%. Google wants to offer more flexibility to publishers. For the uninitiated, Murdoch's News Corp. publishes two newspapers, i.e., The Times and The Sun.

After years of contention, Google is working alongside publishers to boost content sales. News Corp's chief executive, Robert Thomson, said he expects it will change the publishing landscape and the way readers consume news. According to the Media Statistics of 2017, the United State's digital ad revenue in 2017 had a major stake of around 47% held by Google.

"What we've learned over the years as the market has matured is that the one-size-fits-all approach to "first click free" really doesn't make sense in this market", said Richard Gingras, Google's vice president of news.

Once punished in search results unless they offered users three free articles per day, publishers with paywalls will now be indexed in search results with the same criteria as free websites.

Google has also said it plans to help solve barriers to subscription, like the "hassles" of registering on a site, remembering multiple passwords and enterting credit card information.

Other competitors such as Facebook, are also working on these subscriber registration tools.

Google is now banking on its relaxed policies and developing subscription tools to prevent major media houses and publications from holding back adequate content. Google and Facebook combined will account for 60 percent of the United States digital advertising market this year, according to the research firm eMarketer.

In a conference held in September, Thompson revealed that Google is thinking about changing its "first click free" policy soon. "He's very closely involved in a number of the publisher discussions", Schindler said.


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