Google to limit free news on publishers' behalf

Online news

Google is set to put limits on the number of free articles users can view from its Google News service, at the request of newspaper publishers.

The new scheme announced today called First Click Free will mean publishers can make users either register or pay if they want to view more than five articles on their websites per day.

A post on the Google News blog, by senior business product manager Josh Cohen, said: "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."

He added: "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."

The move will be seen as an effort to calm animosity between the search engine and companies such as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp who have threatened to remove their content from Google altogether.

However, Google thinks this process will allow the publishers to have better control of their content whilst still having it searchable without resorting to cloaking the process of showing one web page to the Google indexer and another when the user clicks.

The search engine will also offer a further solution where preview pages, generally featuring a headline and the first few paragraphs, will be considered free and shown to the user as free.

"This means that our crawlers see the exact same content that will be shown for free to a user," Cohen added. "Because the preview page is identical for both users and the crawlers, it's not cloaking."

The update has been announced today but Google will continue discussions with publishers to come to final arrangements.

"These are two of the ways we allow publishers to make their subscription content discoverable, and we're going to keep talking with publishers to refine these methods," the blog post from Cohen concluded.

"After all, whether you're offering your content for free or selling it, it's crucial that people find it. Google can help with that."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.