Photographer: Angelos Tzortzinis/Bloomberg

Google's Free-Click Changes Are ‘Significant’ for News Outlets

Google’s plans to revamp its “first click free” program, which lets users read news articles without paying, won praise from one of the technology giant’s harshest critics.

The search-engine giant is developing ways to boost subscriptions for news publishers, including a tool for online payments, Bloomberg reported last month. News Corp.’s Wall Street Journal had complained that Google unfairly discriminated against its content after the publisher began blocking the search engine giant’s users from reading free articles earlier this year, causing traffic to plummet.

The changes could create “an inflection point on the internet,” News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Thomson said Tuesday at an investor conference. “That will fundamentally change the content ecosystem not just for us but for many publishers. It will allow the creation of coherent viable subscription models.”

Thomson praised Google CEO Sundar Pichai “for heading in the right direction.”

A Google spokeswoman said the company is always evaluating its policies but has nothing to announce right now.

Media companies are focused on online subscriptions as print ads shrivel and digital ad spending consolidates with Facebook Inc. and Google, which together this year will garner more than 60 percent of the $83 billion market, according to EMarketer.

— With assistance by Mark Bergen

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