The battle between media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and search engine behemoth Google took a new twist yesterday with the announcement by the company that newspaper publishers will now be able to limit the number of free news articles people can read.
Until now, Google has always defended its position against claims that it profits from online news pages by enabling users to bypass subscription websites using search. But it finally appears to have flinched, announcing that users who click on more than five news articles in a day from sites subscribed to the programme may be routed to payment or registration pages.
Rupert Murdoch (above) has accused Google (as well as sites such as the BBC) of generating profits by offering too much free content and/or linking readers to newspaper articles, thus increasing advertising revenues and bypassing some sites’ subscription systems. Murdoch is a huge advocate of paying for online content and, with circulation figures declining, newspapers are increasingly looking for new ways of making money from the web.
So what’s the impact for those of us in the PR industry and those of us who use the web to keep up to date? In truth, this concession from Google means little at present as, generally speaking, people search the entire web for stories rather than one specific news site. However, it is small and surprising victory for Murdoch in an ongoing war at a time when it looked like his position was untenable. And it does leave me wondering what’s going to happen further down the line. I, for example, spend at least an hour every day filtering through various news sites and my own RSS feeds to keep up with developments that are important to me. But will I be able to do this in future without paying for the privilege?
What do you think of this development? Leave a comment and let us know.