August 18, 2017

Google on Friday became the latest tech giant to begin rolling out tools to help publishers recruit subscribers.

The initiative, which is three-pronged, is being piloted by The New York Times and Financial Times, according to Bloomberg, which broke the news:

  • Relaunching “first click free,” the function that allows readers to access paywalled content free of charge if they access it through search.
  • Developing online payment tools for publishers.
  • Helping publishers target potential subscribers.

Google’s move mirrors those taken by Facebook and Apple, Inc., which have also experimented with helping publishers identify and convert subscribers. Last year saw a redesign of Apple News that offered new customers an option to subscribe within the app. News organizations split the revenue from subscribers with Apple, according to The Wall Street Journal, with journalists keeping 70 percent from new subscriptions and 85 percent from renewals. Facebook is experimenting with a similar feature, but many of the details have not yet been made public.

These changes come as publishers around the world continue to grapple with the erosion of their advertising-based business model, which sustained them for decades before Silicon Valley titans began to gobble up market share.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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