Feeds

Google shrinks its door to free WSJ stories, slightly

Small, possibly meaningless concession to Murdoch?

The essential guide to IT transformation

In a possibly meaningless response to Rupert Murdoch's War on Free, Google is to allow publishers to limit the number of free pages users of Google News can read on their sites.

Up to now Google News has provided a mechanism for users to get access to content that is otherwise subscription-only (in, say, the Wall Street Journal), but now Google proposes to let publishers limit users to no more than five free pages a day before they can be served a registration page.

Murdoch and his executives - notably WSJ managing editor Robert Thomson - have lambasted search engines and news aggregators in colourful terms (parasites, content kleptomaniacs, vampires, tech tapeworms), while threatening to remove News Corp publications from Google. And along with a number of other publishers, they've also been in talks with Microsoft, possibly with a view to taking Microsoft money to dump Google, but more likely over some form of revenue development and sharing deal.

Google's latest move, which was announced by senior business product manager Josh Cohen in a blog post yesterday, might be aimed at taking some of the heat out of the argument, but it's doubtful that it will have a major impact on Murdoch's thinking.

The programme that Google is modifying, First Click Free, was itself an attempt to deal with the problem of indexing content on subscription sites. In order to have their stories appear in Google, publishers needed to make them freely available via Google News. The theory here is that once readers have discovered their excellent content via Google, a percentage of them will want to read more, and thus take out a subscription.

One presumes from recent remarks from Murdoch and Thomson that this isn't happening as much as they would like, or possibly at all. The cheaper class of reader is able to read the whole of the WSJ simply by accessing it one story at a time from Google News. The cheaper class of reader (hello, Silicon Alley Insider) probably isn't worth that much to WSJ advertisers anyway.

But more likely, people using Google News as a news homepage will access several WSJ a day, along with several apiece from Bloomberg, Reuters AP et al. A whole lot of them won't be reading a single publication intensively enough to feel the need to pay them subs, and these don't have a great deal of value to News Corp.

But under the new regime, a whole lot of these people still won't have a great deal of value to News Corp, if they're not reading more than five pieces from the WSJ a day. So the 'concession' is meaningless?

Probably. But there's something interesting in Google's FAQ on the changes:

Q: What is the preferred way to count a user's accesses? A: Since there are many different site architectures, we believe it's best to leave this up to the publisher to decide.

Google is letting the publishers decide how many clicks make five? What if they cheat, what happens? Does that maybe depend on who cheats, and does that maybe mean there's wiggle-room? ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.