Articles: Blogs

First Click Free: Google rolls over for Murdoch

Media - 2nd December 2009

Hot on the heels of our item last week about Murdoch taking on Google, today there’s news of an apparent concession by the latter. Presumably fearful that any deal done between Bing, News Corporation and other publishers could cost it valuable content, Google has announced a new way for news organisations to limit the amount of their stuff that can be viewed for free via the search engine.

In fact, what has been announced is an update to an existing programme called ‘First Click Free’, which has been around for at least a couple of years.  The change seems to be that now surfers can see up to five news items via Google before encountering the publisher’s pay wall. Originally it was just a single article, which presumably explains the relative lack of interest in this product – it can’t have laid many breadcrumbs to tempt potential subscribers to publishers’ websites.

This looks to be a simple change by Google, but one that may significantly impact the economics of online news. By tackling head-on the seemingly unstoppable force of free news Murdoch may have achieved something that all other news organisations have failed at. Was the Bing thing all a negotiating tactic? Possibly. I’d hate to play poker with the man.