Ever thought Google News, with its endless stream of no-cost content, was too good to be true? Well, so did Rupert Murdoch, who has repeatedly threatened to pull News Corp.'s Web sites--most notably, The Wall Street Journal and the Times of London--from the search titan. (Gawker imagined that scenario on Nov. 24.) And now, Google is updating its options to help Murdoch and other publishers limit free access to articles.
Here's how it used to work: Publishers allowed Google's crawler to index their subscription content, then allowed users who found one of those articles through Google News or Google Search to see full stories without registering or subscribing. Google called this the "First Click Free" program, but really, all clicks--on Google News, at least--were free. (Google terms this "abusing the spirit" of First Click Free.) The revamped options let publishers limit users to no more than five no-cost page views per day.
"If you're a Google user, this means that you may start to see a registration page after you've clicked through to more than five articles on the Web site," wrote Josh Cohen, senior business product manager, on the Google News Blog.
Panicked yet? Well, you shouldn't be. If you're one of the so-called "abusers," all this means is that you'll have to pay a minimal fee--e.g., $1.99/week for WSJ.com--for quality content that you already know and love. (Which, come on, you should have been doing anyway. The media is dying, remember?) And if you're like the rest of us, who just use Google's service to bone up on breaking news, the chances of clicking five articles from the same publisher are slim to none. Case in point: