According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Google is ending its “first click free” (FCF) program, which provides users access to content behind publisher subscription paywalls when they click through from Google results. The move is intended to help boost subscription rates.
According to the story, Google will allow publishers to offer FCF on a voluntary basis, but failure to do so won’t result in any rankings hit. FCF was introduced in 2007 as a way to expose subscription content to search users so that they wouldn’t be frustrated by paywalls and to help them test-drive content as an enticement to later subscribe.
Earlier this year, the WSJ pulled out of FCF and saw its traffic drop by nearly 45 percent. However, the company reported “a fourfold increase in subscription conversions” despite the traffic decline — seemingly validating the decision.