Google allows publishers to limit free views of news articles

Amid all the debate about paid content and the ongoing criticism from News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, Google Inc. has decided to allow publishers of paid content to limit the number of free views of news articles, The Associated Press reports.

Josh Cohen, Google’s senior business product manager, explained the changes to the company’s “First Click Free” program in a post to the the official  staff blog of Google News. He wrote:

“Participating publishers allow the crawler to index their subscription content, then allow users who find one of those articles through Google News or Google Search to see the full page without requiring them to register or subscribe. The user’s first click to the content is free, but when a user clicks on additional links on the site, the publisher can show a payment or registration request. 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. 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. If you’re a Google user, this means that you may start to see a registration page after you’ve clicked through to more than five articles on the website of a publisher using First Click Free in a day.”

Cohen also noted that Google will index preview pages and treat them as free. These preview pages include those with the headline and the first few paragraphs that subscription-only sites sometimes provide. These pages will be labeled “subscription” by Google.

News Corp.’s The Wall Street Journal called the change “the latest concession the search giant is making to publishers who want more control over their articles.” News Corp. did not comment for the WSJ article.

Murdoch, a vocal proponent of paid content, criticized aggregators at a recent U.S. Federal Trade Commission workshop on how journalism will survive in the digital era.