With pressure mounting against Google from newspapers angered by the way it helps readers bypass their paywalls; the search engine giant has agreed to aid publishers by putting a cap on subscription websites.
The cap will limit free access to five articles per day, after which readers will be redirected to a registration page or payment screen. Previously, users have been able to continually view subscription articles for free by entering news websites via Google.
Another approach the search engine might take is to display a headline and the opening paragraphs of an article, but once the link is clicked on users will be redirected to a pay screen before being permitted to view the rest of the article.
Josh Cohen, Google's senior business product manager, said the company realized the "challenges" newspapers faced in their desire to monetize online content. Nevertheless, Cohen warned of the impact the move could have on news website's rankings, potentially being pushed down or neglected by users who refuse to pay.
"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," he said.
Indeed recent surveys have found a general unwillingness to pay for news online, with only five per cent of news readers saying they would pay for what they read.
The olive branch comes following accusations from News Corp CEO, Rupert Murdoch that Google is 'stealing stories'. The media mogul has long been critical of the search engine and particularly active in making the shift toward charging for online content.
Murdoch recently caused a buzz in threatening to block all News Corp websites from Google, later revealing that he had entered into talks with Microsoft's Bing, about a deal that would list all News Corp content exclusively on the revamped search engine.
With the debate gathering steam, A.H. Belo and MediaNews last week announced that they were also considering pulling their content from Google's search results.
The new cap could be a result of these threats, with Google fearing that more publishers might get on board with its competitor or remove their content, though it has been argued that newspapers risk more in cutting out Google than vice versa.
The move to charge online has become particularly relevant as the fall out of the recession has left many news publications between a rock and hard place financially. Looking for ways to generate profits many have been looking at charging for their content online. Murdoch has said that he will introduce paywalls across all his publications next year, and last week Johnston Press, the second largest newspaper owner (measured by weekly circulation) in Britain, is trialing paywalls at six of the company's websites in order to test the consumer reaction to charging online.
Source: The Independent