In the first round of the staredown, Rupert Murdoch seems to have made Google flinch.
The omnipotent, omnipresent search engine giant announced in a blog post Tuesday.
"Previously, each click from a user would be treated as free," Google senior business product manager Josh Cohen said in the post. "Now, we've updated the program so that publishers can limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing."
Under the new plan, newspaper publishers will be able to set a limit on the number of free news articles people can read through Google, the company has announced. And users will be routed to payment or registration pages if publishers join the First Click Free plan.
Participating publishers allow the crawler to index their subscription content, then allow users who find one of those articles through Google News or Google Search to see the full page without requiring them to register or subscribe. 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.
Google also plans to allow for crawling and indexing of summary content - basically a headline and short index item - of pay content.
We will crawl, index and treat as "free" any preview pages. This means that our crawlers see the exact same content that will be shown for free to a user. Because the preview page is identical for both users and the crawlers, it's not cloaking. We will then label such stories as "subscription" in Google News. The ranking of these articles will be subject to the same criteria as all sites in Google, whether paid or free.
The concession from Google comes as the clarion call of content publisher builds to a crescendo as the news industry searches for an answer to a business model failing to attract or hold advertising revenue. Users who click on more than five articles in a day may be routed to payment or registration pages.
Media tycoon Murdoch had earlier accused firms such as Google of profiting from journalism by generating advertising revenue by linking readers to newspaper articles. Some readers have discovered they can avoid paying subscription fees to newspaper websites by calling up their pages via Google and Murdoch has moved to take content from The Wall Street Journal, among other of his multitudinous media properties, of the Google search index.