Google search is getting a change that might help publishers that lock content behind a paywall.

The biggest change is to Google’s age old First Click Free Policy. The policy required publishers to make three articles a day available for free through search in exchange for higher rankings in search results.

The policy will now be scrapped and in its place Google will institute Flexible Sampling.

“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,” said Google’s vice president of new Richard Gingras in a blog post.

Among other recommendations the search giant suggests that publishers which use a subscription model make 10 articles a month available for free though they are under no obligation to do that.

Google added that it is building additional products that will help news outlets reach new audiences and build their subscriptions. To facilitate that the Alphabet division is looking at how to simplify purchases to drive the uptake of subscriptions.

“Our goal is to make subscriptions work seamlessly everywhere, for everyone,” said Gingras.

It appears as if the change Google is making has been well received by publishers. Jon Slade chief commercial officer at The Financial Times said that advertising alone can no longer pay for high quality journalism.

“Reader-based revenue, aka paid-content, or subscription services, are therefore not just a nice-to-have, but an essential component of a publisher’s revenue composition,” Slade told Google.

While First Click Free is being scrapped Google made it very clear that keeping readers and publishers happy is an on-going process that requires input from all parties.

[Image – CC BY 2.0 Carlos Luna]