Google has bowed to pressure from news organisations led by News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch demanding an end to free news content.
In a statement yesterday, Google Senior Business Product Manager Josh Cohen announced the introduction of First Click Free, a scheme enabling participating content providers to present a subscription screen to users clicking through to their sites from Google News frequently.
Said Cohen: "The user's first click to the content is free, but when a user clicks on additional links on the site, the publisher can show a payment or registration request. First Click Free is a great way for publishers to promote their content and for users to check out a news source before deciding whether to pay.
"Previously, each click from a user would be treated as free. Now, we've updated the program so that publishers can limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing. 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 website of a publisher using First Click Free in a day.
"We think this approach will allow publishers to focus on potential subscribers who are accessing a lot of their content on a regular basis."
Google says it will also crawl, index and treat as 'free' any preview pages - generally the headline and first few paragraphs of a story - made available. This will then be labeled as subscription content in Google News. The ranking of these articles will be subject to the same criteria as all sites in Google, whether paid or free.
Adds Cohen: "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."