In an effort to increase paid subscriptions, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last year began experimenting with changes to the mechanics of its paywall.
As part of its experimentation, the WSJ began limiting access to its content through Google’s First Click Free program.
First Click Free allows publishers to have their paywalled content fully indexed by Google. In exchange, publishers agree to allow the first article requested by a reader through a Google News referral to be accessed without a subscription.
Under the First Click Free program, publishers are allowed to limit the number of articles that readers can access through Google referrals, but are required to allow users coming through Google to access a minimum of three free articles per day.
According to Google, First Click Free is the company’s “preferred solution” for publishers that operate a paywall since “it can benefit both our users and our publisher partners. It allows Googlebot to fully index your content, which can improve the likelihood of users visiting your site; and it allows users to view the article of interest while also encouraging them to subscribe.”
But apparently, the WSJ found that First Click Free isn’t the best solution for driving subscriptions and will be abandoning First Click Free in its entirety this week.