Google setting up their own walls: news not entirely free

Thu 3 December 2009 10:28, Bas van den Beld

Google setting up their own walls: news not entirely free

Did Murdoch have a point after all? Maybe. Maybe not. Fact is that Google has reacted to the controversion which has been going around between publishers and search engines. Tuesday it announced it is changing the way it gives it grants access to news stories.

With this move Google makes a step towards the publishers who have been threatening to take their content out of the Google index and have supposedly even been in talks with Google's competitor Bing.

In the new format changes will be made to Google's "First Click Free" program. Users are now able to read the first story coming from Google news for free, and then have to pay for the next steps, but could get free content just by going back to Google news. That will now change.

People will still be able to obtain free access to participating sites' premium content via Google news, but only through a maximum of five times a day. search.

Josh Cohen on the Google blog says:

"In addition to First Click Free, we offer another solution: 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."

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,"

The question however rises if this step will actually make a difference. Five times a day is already quite a few clicks coming from Google news for one person. And how will they keep track? Cookies? Those can be deleted, your Google account? Many have got more or could just switch it off. Hence: there are probably many ways around this. It's a step Google is taking towards publishers, but whether or not this will help...

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