Google plays a big role in bringing traffic to online publishers, but for sites with paywalls, the company made a controversial move a few years back. Now, the company is backtracking on that (as reported last month) to appease those outlets.

In case you weren’t aware, Google previously had a policy known as “first-click free” which essentially forced sites with a paywall to offer free content (up to 3 articles per day) in order to rank higher in search results. Now, Google is changing that policy so that those sites are not demoted if they offer even no free content.

We will end our First Click Free policy in favor of a Flexible Sampling model where publishers will decide how many, if any, free articles they want to provide to potential subscribers based on their own business strategies. This move is informed by our own research, publisher feedback, and months-long experiments with the New York Times and the Financial Times, bothof which operate successful subscription services.

Along with that, Google is working to help drive more revenue and readers to these subscription outlets by making it easier for users to manage their subscriptions. For the most part, subscription-based sites currently require users to make their own specific account for that site and enter their payment information. Anyone who has several subscriptions will likely tell you that it’s a pain to keep up with.

Google says that it wants to improve this experience by using its current identity and payment options to offer subscriptions to these sites through services such as Google News and the Newsstand app.

As a first step we’re taking advantage of our existing identity and payment technologies to help people subscribe on a publication’s website with a single click, and then seamlessly access that content anywhere— whether it’s on that publisher site or mobile app, or on Google Newsstand, Google Search or Google News.

And since news products and subscription models vary widely, we’re collaborating with publishers around the world on how to build a subscription mechanism that can meet the needs of a diverse array of approaches—to the benefit of the news industry and consumers alike.

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Ben Schoon

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