Murdoch Forces Google to Change "First Click" to "First 5 Clicks" Free

Looks like Rupert Murdoch is getting some traction in his quest to keep "kleptomaniacs" like you and us from getting his content for free. Google senior Business Product Manager Josh Cohen says at the Google News Blog that his company is "updating" its First Click Free program, which had previously allowed users to access pages from subscription sites like the Wall Street Journal for free, even though dedicated users would be asked for a password.

This was portrayed as necessary for Google's crawlers to find subscription content and portray it accurately to users, with their entry via Google to a subscription site revealing the content, and subsequent hits going to the sign-in page. Users who only get to subscription sites via Google, though, had been able to replicate the free pass infinitely.

Google now portrays this as "abusing the spirit of First Click Free to access almost all of their content"...

So now publishers can limit the number of free click-throughs to their content from any given user to five. Also, preview pages (like this) in which a little content is provided as a teaser before the password prompt will be indexed as "free" content.

The Times points out that Murdoch has been negotiating with Google rival Bing for an exclusive on his News Corp content, so this may be seen as a counter-offer, allowing the mogul to still get Google hits without having to give up too many free accesses.

It's a small concession, but Google doesn't need to give more. Murdoch is not going to change the Journal access policy, or that of the New York Post, into one as restrictive as that of the New York Law Journal, thereby turning the second-largest paper in the country into a trade publication. The question is whether he's made Google nervous enough to over-accommodate him, and all other pay-news vendors. If so, we could eventually get two-tiered search engine service: one for punters, and another for paying customers, perhaps to be called GoogleSelect. Photo (cc) World Economic Forum.


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