Google’s “First Click Free” (FCF) policy was intended to provide a better experience for Google users and for premium content and news publishers (e.g., the Wall Street Journal) by allowing their content to be indexed and exposed for subsequent sale to consumers.
However, as most of you are aware, the publisher pay walls are going up, led by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Murdoch is also the mastermind behind the Google “de-indexing” strategy.
Google is modifying the FCF approach, as the Webmaster Central Blog explains:
As most users are generally happy to be able to access just a few pages from these premium content providers, we’ve decided to allow publishers to limit the number of accesses under the First Click Free policy to five free accesses per user each day. This change applies to both Google News publishers as well as websites indexed in Google’s Web Search. We hope that this encourages even more publishers to open up more content to users around the world!
There’s a fairly detailed Q&A in the post on FCF and the changes. However, more context and discussion of the program are provided in Danny’s interview with Google PM Josh Cohen.
Clearly Cohen favors more liberal use of FCF but understands publisher concerns about users potentially circumventing their pay walls with FCF — hence the change in Google’s policy.