MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA: Google is scrapping its policy of requiring publishers to provide a minimum of three free articles a day via Google Search and Google News before people were asked to pay for content.

“Publishers are in the best position to determine what level of free sampling works best for them,” wrote Richard Gingras, VP/News at Google, in a blog.

Accordingly, the internet giant is shifting to a “flexible sampling” model, where publishers themselves will decide how many – if any – free articles they want to provide to potential subscribers based on their own business strategies.

Google has been working with a number of leading news publishers, who were broadly welcoming of the move on both societal and financial fronts.

“If the change is properly introduced, the impact will be profoundly positive for journalists everywhere and for the cause of informed societies,” said Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp, which owns titles such as the Wall Street Journal and The Times.

At the Financial Times, chief commercial officer Jon Slade, highlighted how “advertising alone can no longer pay for the production and distribution of high quality journalism.

“Reader-based revenue, aka paid-content, or subscription services, are therefore not just a nice-to-have, but an essential component of a publisher's revenue composition,” he stated.

Google is now looking at how it can use its identity and payment technologies to make subscribing possible with a single click, while further down the road it anticipates machine learning will help publishers recognize potential subscribers and present the right offer at the right time.

“We’re collaborating with publishers around the world on how to build a subscription mechanism that can meet the needs of a diverse array of approaches – to the benefit of the news industry and consumers alike,” Gingras said.

Interestingly, the three publishers highlighted by Google are not participating in an equivalent Facebook exercise, which will see the social media giant trial enabling readers to subscribe to publications after reading their stories in Instant Articles.

One that will, however, is the Washington Post, which The Street noted has long been all-in on Instant Articles and which last week passed the million mark in digital-only subscriptions – “the fastest growth rate in the business”.

Sourced from Google, Financial Times, The Street; additional content by WARC staff