Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) recently changed its news feed policy by introducing a program it has dubbed First Click Free.
According to Google’s blog, First Click Free lets publishers “limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing.”
However, as some publications have noted, this isn’t likely to affect users unless you are a Google News junkie who checks the same few publications over and over. (You know, like if you’re obsessively checking Google News for updates from the New York Daily News about Tiger Woods’ growing entourage of temptresses.)
Google is not alone in this. NewsCorp's Rupert Murdoch has been a fierce proponent of charging for content, though his vision differs starkly from the search giant. He’s accused aggregators like Google, to put it impolitely, of stealing. However, as Arianna Huffington pointed out in a recent column, content providers like NewsCorp can very easily remove their content from Google search results “with a simple "disallow" in its robots.txt file.” She goes on to say, “be careful what you wish for because as soon as you do that, and start denying your content to other sites that aggregate and link back to the original source, you stand to lose a large part of your traffic overnight.”
Murdoch has indicated that it’s only a matter of time before all of News Corps properties, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and Fox News, become pay-only sites. Other publications like Newsday already charge for content.
Google’s move may, in fact, be a significant step in the direction of making news content available only to subscribers. As the New York Times put it, “Google is doing some tweaking so that reader sampling is actually reader sampling and not just the taking of content at will.”
The Google move is arguably the broadest measure taken so far in the quest for a pay-for-content model for the web. Eric Schmidt, the chairman and CEO of Google, wrote a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he argued that the search engine needs to work together with publishers to ensure that publishers make more money from their online content. This way, high quality content can continue to be produced.
However, if you’re feeling worried about the fate of online content, just listen to some soothing songs from any of these awesome free music sites, or distract yourself with a free movie on Hulu.
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