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Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Google Updates News Crawler To Allow Publishers Limit Free Access To Their News

In a move that could help improve relations between Google and the media industry, Google is offering news publishers a way to attract paying subscribers without having to remove their content from Google News search results.

As newspapers consider charging for access to their online content, some publishers have been wondering whether they should put up pay walls or keep their articles in Google News and Google Search.

Google today announced a way that allows publishers to make their subscription content discoverable.

The internet search giant today announced the First Click Free. 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. First Click Free is 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, Google has updated the program so that publishers can limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing. Google users may start to see a registration page after they'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 still protects the typical user from cloaking, while allowing publishers to focus on potential subscribers who are accessing a lot of their content on a regular basis," Ankit "Chunky" Gupta, Software Engineer at Google wrote on the company's blog.

In addition to First Click Free, Google is offering another solution: Google will crawl, index and treat as "free" any preview pages - generally the headline and first few paragraphs of a story - that they make available to them. This means that Google's 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. Google 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. 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," Google added.

Google's move comes after some media companies accused it of profiting from their online news. News Corp already limits online access to its Wall Street Journal newspaper to paying subscribers, and plans to do the same for its Times newspaper in Britain.

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