I am sure you have seen this in action. You see an article, you click on it from Google News and you are able to read the full article. Then you want to see the article again an hour or so later, but the publisher asks you to login to see the full article. That is the “first click free” program in action.
Sometimes publishers do not want even the first click to be free, in those cases, Google will label that news result with a “subscription” tag, so the user knows you need to be a subscriber to read the content. Here is an example of what that may look like in Google news:
The “First click free” program isn’t new, just not that well known. Danny covered it in his YADAC: Yet Another Debate About Cloaking Happens Again article. I also wrote about it at the Search Engine Roundtable in How To Allow Google News To Index Your Subscription Only Source?
In addition, we had two Sphinn discussions on this topic. The first was started by Danny and named Got Registration? Cloaking Google News Is Now Officially OK and the second was started by Sebastian and named Cloaking is alive and doing well in Google.
Of course, if Google News allows this form of cloaking, why can’t others use it in Google web search? Heck, we have Google Universal Search now, so Google News can be directly embedded in the Web search results and those results can participate in the First click free program.
Somewhat related, Academic Publishers as Spammers from BlogSci.com covers how through other program such as Google Scholar, cloaked pages are allowed into Google.