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AP

Google is ending its longtime "First Click Free" (FCF) policy, which for more than ten years has allowed people to access content that was traditionally behind a paywall for free with their first click into the content on Google Search and Google News properties.

Why it matters: It's a make-nice from Google to publishers, who have been struggling to make digital ad revenue amidst Google and Facebook's overwhelming dominance in that area. The policy was particularly controversial because the design of Google's algorithm forced publishers to comply, or otherwise face a reduction in ad-supported traffic to their websites.

In a blog post, Google says it gave users this access to to help them discover paywall content and learn its value, but premium publishers have long argued that it has hindered their ability to monetize their subscription revenues.

What's new: They're removing FCF from search and adding "Flexible Sampling," a policy that lets publishers explore which different free sampling mechanisms work for them, as long as they stay within Google's updated webmaster guidelines.

Google's Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler says both he and Google CEO Sundar Pichai have spent a lot of time the past few years talking to publishers about ways to support their subscription revenues. "I am hearing from them is that this is a positive step forward and a welcome signal that we're all in," Schindler says.

The competition: Facebook is set to roll out its subscription efforts within Instant Articles in the coming weeks.

Go deeper

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.