Google to put limits on free news
Newspaper publishers will be allowed to set a limit on the number of free articles people can read via Google News, under new proposals announced by the search engine.
In a clear bid to ease the antagonism between the search giant and newspaper publishers such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Google’s First Click Free scheme will allow publishers to demand registration or payment after the viewer has read five articles on their sites.
publishers can limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing
“First Click Free is a great way for publishers to promote their content and for users to check out a news source before deciding whether to pay,” Josh Cohen, Google’s senior business product manager writes on the Google News blog. “Previously, each click from a user would be treated as free. Now, we’ve updated the program so that publishers can limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing.”
Google says this will prevent publishers from having to resort to measures such as “cloaking”, where they show Google the full content of the page, but withhold access to the full article once the reader’s clicked through, in a bid to encourage users to pay.
Yet, whether publishers will be prepared to let readers have access to as many as five articles per day without payment or registration is highly questionable. Visitors from news aggregrators such as Google News are notoriously fickle, usually only staying on a site long enough to read the article they came in for. The vast majority of Google News readers are therefore unlikely to ever encounter the pay wall.
Perhaps wary of this, Google is making another concession to publishers. “We will crawl, index and treat as ‘free’ any preview pages – generally the headline and first few paragraphs of a story – that they [publishers] make available to us,” Cohen adds.
“We will then label such stories as ‘subscription’ in Google News. The ranking of these articles will be subject to the same criteria as all sites in Google, whether paid or free. Paid content may not do as well as free options, but that is not a decision we make based on whether or not it’s free. It’s simply based on the popularity of the content with users and other sites that link to it.”
And in a thinly-veiled warning to Rupert Murdoch, who has threatened to withdraw all his newspaper sites from Google, Cohen says that hiding content isn’t the answer. “Whether you’re offering your content for free or selling it, it’s crucial that people find it,” he concludes. “Google can help with that.”
The report arrives with reports suggesting Microsoft’s deal with News Corp to delist sites from Google has been overblown.