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Google News publishers know all about the wonders and horrors of First Click Free.
Google News wants to include prestigious newspapers and let users click through to the stories which matched keyword searches.
Some newspapers still want to operate on a subscription model.
First Click Free for News is a method whereby Google gets access to the full content of publishers' news stories, getting to peer through a pay wall/subscription page and where Google News users get to read the first story they click to for free.
After the first story the reader is challenged for a subscription.
There are pros and cons to First Click Free. One big pro is that the green (subscription) warning beside the story headline in Google News vanishes and so traffic surges upwards as a result.
One con is that savvy readers can abuse the system to read a lot more than just one story for free.
In October, Google rolled out First Click Free for Web Search. This takes the First Click Free for News and applies it to the normal search results.
This means a wider range of sites which might not be eligible for Google News but which may desire a subscription model can allow Google to ethically see and index all their content, let users peak at the content but then fall back on subscription model.
Sites that provide diets, recipes, poems, gossip, transcripts, lyrics, sport predictions, satirical news, daily jokes, etc, might all benefit from First Click Free for Web Search. These sites would opt-in to Google's First Click Free for Web Search by being willing to write off their Yahoo and MSN Live traffic.
There may well be many sites in the UK willing to do put all their search eggs in Google's basket but social media traffic should also be considered.
Many URLs are passed around via Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg and their clones. In fact these sites are a good method of ‘social discovery' and often play a key role in introducing quality content to a wider audience of social media participants.
Only time will tell whether content sites opt into First Click Free for Web Search, enjoy the revenue stream from a subscription model and Google traffic but sacrifice Yahoo, MSN and social media traffic in return, or whether content sites keep their pay walls down.
Andrew Girdwood is Head of Search for bigmouthmedia .
The views of the author do not necessarily represent those of the publisher.