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Google News Initiative kicks off with Subscribe With Google, other efforts

Google’s plans to help support publishers’ subscription businesses came into clearer focus on Tuesday at an event in New York City.
The company is launching a wider framework for working with publishers, called the Google News Initiative. It builds on several of the projects the company announced last fall. Google’s Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler outlined the three key objectives of the Google News Initiative (GNI) at the event and in a blog post:
  • Elevate and strengthen quality journalism.
  • Evolve business models to drive sustainable growth.
  • Empower news organizations through technological innovation.

Subscribe With Google

Subscribe With Google is a linchpin in that second objective to foster sustainable business models for publishers. The aim is to make it as easy as possible for users to subscribe — particularly on mobile.
Google account holders who have payment information on file in their accounts can purchase subscriptions with a couple of clicks. The user’s Google credentials are then used as their login information for their subscriptions. Subscriber information will be turned over to publishers.
Google has been testing this with several publishers, including The Washington Post, which demoed their two-click Subscribe With Google process at the event.
Once a reader signs up with or links their Google account to their subscription, they’ll be signed in automatically whenever they are signed in to Google.
“We think that having to log in once can improve the user experiences in a small but important way,” said Bonita Stewart, VP of global partnerships.
With Subscribe With Google, those who already subscribe to publications will see content from those publications higher in Google search results when they share their subscription status with Google. Stewart was careful to note that the ranking algorithm isn’t changing, but that news results from subscribed publications will be inserted in the results subscribers see.

Propensity to Subscribe

A new Propensity to Subscribe signal is in development now with several partners.
Using machine learning, Google aims to help publishers reach site visitors who are likely to subscribe. For publishers using DoubleClick for Publishers, Google will algorithmically determine when to serve a subscription offer on a publisher’s site rather than an ad. Propensity to Subscribe could be rolled out to more publications later this year.
To help identify new prospective audiences, Google also plans to use publishers’ audience data to build lookalike audiences, allowing them to target people who are most likely to subscribe.

New Google Analytics-based Dashboard for publishers

Additionally, a new News Consumer Insights Dashboard, built on top of Google Analytics, features user engagement data to help publishers understand what is resonating with users and leverage those insights to build readership.
Last fall, Google announced it was ending its First Click Free program and replacing it with Flexible Sampling. The change means publishers can choose whether and when to show a paywall or subscription prompt to visitors coming from Google Search. Under First Click Free, publishers had to allow searchers to access at least three paywalled articles per day for free or be subjected to showing lower in the search results.