Google: Publishers Can Limit Free Articles. Has the Media Game Changed?


Google recently announced that online newspapers can now limit how many free articles people read. The new “First Click Free” program lets publishers restrict access to users after reading up to five free articles through Google. When Google senses that you have clicked on more than five free articles in a day, you’ll be routed to a pay or registration wall. Rupert Murdoch’s loud complaints seem to have worked.

Marketing Pilgrim’s Andy Beal observes that Google’s small concession still keeps its ad revenue intact:

The Financial Times report on how much news scraping exists on the web:

The study of 101,000 articles published by 157 newspapers found that more than 75,000 sites reused 112,000 almost exact copies without authorisation, and a further 520,000 articles in part…The study found Google accounted for 53 per cent of the advertising being run alongside unlicensed stories…

Is it pure coincidence that on the day News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch was in Washington telling the FTC about the need to reform “fair use” laws to prevent the “theft” of its content, Attributor pulls out some heavy numbers in support and Google decides to bend a little?

I think not!

Forget the fact that Bing is rumored to be courting the newspaper industry to dump Google, the search engine plans to lose a significant slice of revenue, if the publishing industry faces any kind of mass reform. Think about it, Google offers to change the “First Click Free” terms in order to save the AdSense revenue it makes from bloggers, and the more nefarious scrapers.

It’s a small sacrifice, right?

Indeed. Google’s “sacrifice” also muffles news publishers’ war cries, at least for the time being, because their sites can now have both limited access and high visibility. But Google’s move doesn’t play an integral part in the media debate, unless every mainstream outlet follows the paywall plan.

Written by Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.