Google Alters News Indexing to Accommodate Pay Walls

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In a bid to appease publishers, Google has updated its search programs, allowing publishers who charge for their content to limit users to only five free page views per day.

Many publishers impose this type of limits on free page views for Web surfers who visit their sites directly. If you browse the WSJ site directly, for example, you could browse a certain number of articles for free, but once you reach the set limit, you would be prompted to register or subscribe to the site.

But, in the past, Google refused to implement these limits on its search results and articles in its Google News service. If you only clicked through WSJ articles using Google News, for example, your entries weren't counted toward the site's limit.

Because of this stance, Google has drawn the ire of some news publishers. Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has called Google many names and has threatened to remove its news assets (like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal) from Google search. There were even discussions of Murdoch partnering with Microsoft, which would pay to exclusively index the content.

Google has stood firm and refused to pay news publishers for indexing their content. But the search giant now seems to have acknowledged the turmoil the newspaper industry is going through and is now making changes to accommodate the much disputed pay walls on certain Web sites.

The changes to Google's First Click Free program let publishers prevent unrestricted access to subscription Web sites. So if one user clicks on more than five articles in a day, he/she will be automatically routed to subscription purchase pages. Google's John Mueller explains in a blog post that the company hopes "this encourages even more publishers to open up more content to users around the world!"

On Tuesday, the same day that Google announced the changes, Rupert Murdoch spoke at a Federal Trade Commission workshop on the future of journalism in the Internet age. Murdoch explained that good journalism is an expensive commodity and criticised sites that profit from reusing news articles by others without paying. He did not mention name of sites, but this has been seen as a direct attack at Google and its News service.

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post also spoke at the workshop on Tuesday, and accused Murdoch of confusing aggregation of news with misappropriation. Huffington said she strongly believes in aggregation next to original content, noting that some of Murdoch's own sites aggregate eternal content as well.

Rupert Murdoch is expected to erect more pay walls for it news properties in the coming months.

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