Google Wants to Make It Easier for You to Pay for News

There's no trick for getting around a metered paywall on your favorite news site like paying for a subscription. If you're tired of remembering how many logins and passwords and automatic payments you have set up for all those different outlets, Google is working on consolidating the process for you — and better supporting journalism while they're at it.

On Monday, Google announced it was sunsetting a "try before you buy" program called First Click Free. The policy required publishers to allow readers access to three or more articles each day if they came to the article through a Google product like Search or News. That may seem counterintuitive — won't this make news sites less likely to give away access?

But Google's rationale is that publishers have the best idea of how many articles to give away in order to convince would-be subscribers. The decision comes after long experiments with the New York Times and the Financial Times. Whether the plan will scale down from national and international publications to local news remains to be seen. On Sunday, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan pointed out that funding for local news is in full-on crisis, which has a huge effect on state and local governance and communities.

Ultimately, Google wants to create a "seamless" way to organize and pay newspaper, magazine and media service subscriptions. Machine learning may even pave the way for new, trustworthy outlet recommendations. So it's possible that you may see some changes in how you access current news stories, but ultimately, Google hopes to make the process and the institutions of media better for everyone.