Google’s First Click Free and the Paywall Dilemma

Google’s First Click Free and the Paywall Dilemma It’s been a good few years since Google first announced that they were working on a solution to the content subscription model that sees paywalls go up shielding content from the access of the search engine, but then in October last year this became a reality – First Click Free. If you are a publisher you have a daunting time ahead. Traditional publishers have had to adapt to other revenue streams to survive. Several high profile cases (notably the New York Times) marked a demise in the typical paid for subscription model of newspapers which resulted from the proliferation of free journalism on the internet. But today there is an approved solution for Google that means you don’t have to leap towards an advertising model that can cause disruption. I say ‘approved’ as there are other solutions that one can deploy for search engine visibility. These solutions would also work for other engines like Yahoo & Bing unlike the Google published solution. Here are the options: 1) Unlock everything There’s a school of thought that says the more you are able to give away the more you will ultimately win over your competition. However this business model is high risk and in many cases still unproven as enough reassurance from alternative revenue streams needs to be proven i.e. on-site advertising, etc. 2) Write twice Write in depth articles for subscribers and write 400 word optimised alternatives for the web. This ticks both boxes, should keep subscribers happy and allows you more chance to pander to SEO from articles that should of course remain originated for your customer-base first rather than for search engines first. It’s additional time and effort however. 3) User detection Use user detection to allow a search engine to crawl all of the content on your sites but then if a user visits you check for the cookie and put up the paywall if it doesn’t exist. This is a lower risk strategy but would allow for the savvy user to read your content for free if they view the cached version of the page or use a browser like Firefox and chance their user agent. 4) Publish expiring content To make the most of the content that you do publish under subscription and to not annoy your subscribers you could publish content after it has run it’s course under subscription i.e. after a month? In this way the search engines get their teeth...

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