As Google continues to roll out free services to lure its market, behind the scenes it is tightening the screws to help publishers restrict access to articles on their online news sites.
Newspaper publishers will now be able to set a limit on the number of free news articles people can read through Google. I expect this will be a welcome, and fair move, enabling online publishers more control over access to the assets that are essentially their core business. As print ad revenues continue to decline, most newspaper publishers are now seeking new ways to make money from their online content.
The ‘First Click Free’ program is in response to claims from some media companies that the search engine is profiting from their online news pages.
After five clicks in a single day, the user may be routed to payment or registration pages. This will only affect websites that currently charge for content.
Thus, the squeeze between old print subscription media and online subscription media is getting tighter.
Prior to this program, readers could avoid paying subscription fees by routing to the pages via Google. It seems Google searches could link directly to newspaper articles, bypassing subscription systems. Now just two lines of code on the server, and Google will back off. It will be interesting to see how this program impacts subscription rates.