Google On The Hunt To Boost New Subscriptions

Google is aiming to improve its relationship with publishers by working on new tools that will help news outlets sell subscriptions.

According to a news report in The Wall Street Journal citing Google, the paper reported the internet search giant is testing a first-click-free policy, in which Google search users get access to article search results that require a subscription. Google may reduce the number of free articles users can access to three a day, noted the paper, citing a person familiar with the plans. Google, noted the report, thinks sampling articles could help publishers sell more subscriptions.  

The Wall Street Journal reported Google is testing the tool with The New York Times and The Financial Times. Google is testing sharing Google data, on which users are most likely to purchase subscriptions. Talks with other publishers are happening at the moment. However, the changes being tested may not end up happening, noted the report.

In July, newspaper companies announced via an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that they are gearing up to seek permission from Congress to collectively negotiate with the internet giants when it comes to how their content is used on social media sites. Antitrust laws on the books currently prevent companies from banding together to negotiate, but in this case, they are hoping lawmakers will overlook the antitrust rules, given the dominance of both Google and Facebook in online advertising.  

“Google and Facebook dominate web traffic and online ad income,” said David Chavern, president and chief executive of the News Media Alliance, in the op-ed piece. “Together, they account for more than 70 percent of the $73 billion spent each year on digital advertising, and they eat up most of the growth. Nearly 80 percent of all online referral traffic comes from Google and Facebook. This is an immensely profitable business.”  

But the two digital giants don’t employ reporters: They do not dig through public records to uncover corruption, send correspondents into war zones or attend the prior night’s game to get the highlights. They expect an economically squeezed news industry to do that costly work for them. The only way publishers can address this inexorable threat is by banding together.