The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) stopped participating in a program this past February that allowed site visitors from the Google search engine to bypass its paywall. Now the publication has seen a 44% drop in traffic, per one report.
In an interview with Bloomberg, the WSJ admits that after leaving Google's "First Click Free" program, traffic plunged nearly by half. Publishers admittedly participate in the program because they find it can have a positive influence on related revenue from the traffic and spur potential new subscriptions.
The Google program allows visitors from its search engine to access articles for free that are usually behind paywalls. The company says its subscription-based news services allow the very first article seen by a Google News user to be clicked on and read for free. After that, any further clicks on the article page will prompt the user to log in or subscribe to the news site.
Meanwhile, the WSJ now only allows those searching for content on Google to see "short snippets at the top if its articles, restricting the rest to its 2.2 million subscribers or people who arrive via social media."
On a positive note, Bloomberg reports that in the most recent quarter, the WSJ's digital subscribers base grew about 30% compared with the prior year, driven partly by barring Google users from reading for free.