Google makes concession to news publishers

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Google makes concession to news publishers

Search giant to limit free news access.

In an apparent concession to online publishers who want to charge for their stories, Google has changed the way content is discoverable in order to prevent users bypassing paid firewalls via Google News.

In a blog posting yesterday, Google senior business product manager Josh Cohen explained that the firm is updating its First Click Free program. This technology allows Google crawlers to index the full content of participating publishers but also allows users to view a full page without having to subscribe.

The problem with this model, however, is that it allowed users to get their first click free on an unlimited number of articles, as long as they went through Google each time.

"Now, we've updated the program so that publishers can limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing," wrote Cohen.

"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 web site of a publisher using First Click Free in a day."

This new system would allow publishers to "focus on potential subscribers who are accessing a lot of their content on a regular basis", Cohen added.

The First Click Free program is necessary because Google's crawlers cannot otherwise index content behind paywalls, meaning users could be tricked into clicking through to a site they weren't expecting, said Cohen.

The move by Google comes just a week after it emerged that publishing giant Rupert Murdoch could be ready to strike a deal with Microsoft to list stories exclusively on its Bing search engine.

Murdoch has publicly criticised Google and its rival search engines for stealing stories, by allowing users to read content free of charge.

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