Google Throws Publishers a Bone With Eased Subscription Access Policy
Google will now allow subscription sites to abstain from the program without taking a hit on the search engine's results lists, insiders say.

Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL) Google search engine will stop its "first click free" policy that lets users bypass paywalls on subscription news sites the first few times they visit them, News Corp (NWSA) CEO Robert Thomson said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The end of the policy could provide a boom in subscriptions for subscription sites, some of which have said "first click free" has weighed on subscription growth. Some sites contend they've been penalized by Google in search rankings if they didn't take part in the policy, which is a voluntary Google program.

The Journal, which is owned by News Corp, said it didn't take part in the program this year. Last month, the Journal's Google search traffic fell 38% and its Google News traffic fell 89% from August of last year. A spokesman said the decline is because the publication was penalized by Google for not accepting the "first click free" policy.

Google will now allow subscription sites to abstain from the program without taking a hit on the search engine's results lists, according to insiders. Alphabet has not yet made a statement about ending the policy.

Subscription services have become an important aspect of staying solvent for publishers as print advertising revenue declines and digital ads become increasingly dominated by Google and Facebook FB.

Alphabet stock traded slightly down premarket Wednesday.

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