Google throws News Corp a bone

The ongoing battle by print publications to get readers to pay to read their online news is infamous. At the head of the pay to read brigade for online content is News Corp's Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch owns one of the few successful pay publications online -- the Wall Street Journal.

Murdoch and Google have been fighting over whether or not Google should be able to index and offer content from News Corp publications or any other publication that requires users to register online. The problem for Murdoch is that readers can access stories from the WSJ online without having to pay thanks to Google indexing the stories.

Murdoch has reportedly been in talks with Microsoft to have Microsoft pay to have News Corp block its content from Google indexing. This would effectively keep the content out of the Google search engine. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has previously stated that News Corp didn’t want to "piss off" readers by forcing them to pay for content or removing content from search indexes.

It appears that Schmidt and Google are having second thoughts on such a strong stand against News Corp and other publishers. The search giant has announced that it will modify its First Click Free program to prompt online readers to register or subscribe to a news providers site after reading five free stores from the publication in a single day.

As it is now readers can read as many stories as they want from a publication in a day without being prompted to register as long as they don’t click other links in the story body. Google is saying that the new system will allow publishers to keep their content in the Google index and still encourage readers to subscribe.

Google's Josh Cohen wrote, "As newspapers consider charging for access to their online content, some publishers have asked: should we put up pay walls or keep our articles in Google news and Google search? In fact they can do both -- the two aren't mutually exclusive."

Google maintains that it will not change the rankings of paid articles in its results, the stories will be ranked on relevance. However, the search engine states that paid content may not do as well as free content.

A statement by Google said, "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."

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