Google announced that it is changing its First Click Free program to allow newspaper publishers to 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. We think this approach still protects the typical user from cloaking, while allowing publishers to focus on potential subscribers who are accessing a lot of their content on a regular basis," wrote Josh Cohen, Senior Business Product Manager of Google on a blog posting yesterday.
Cohen went on to write: We will crawl, index and treat as "free" any preview pages - generally the headline and first few paragraphs of a story - that they make available to us. This means that our crawlers see the exact same content that will be shown for free to a user. Because the preview page is identical for both users and the crawlers, it's not cloaking. 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."
News Corp. chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch has lead the charge against Google, including saying on Tuesday that media companies should charge for content and stop news aggregators like Google from "feeding off the hard-earned efforts and investments of others."
News Corp. charges for online access to The Wall Street Journal and it plans to expand that to other publications, including British newspapers The Sun and The Times. Newsday now charges for access to its site as well if you are not a print subscriber or a customer of Optimum Online.
The Associated Press reported that Murdoch told the U.S. Federal Trade Commission conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday that a fundamental problem facing the media industry is that "technology makes it cheap and easy to distribute news for anyone with Internet access, but producing journalism is expensive."
"Right now there is a huge gap in costs," he added, referring to news compilation sites like Google.