Google sets new limits to free online news

Google offers 'First Click Free' programme for online newspaper publishers

Google is set to limit the number of free articles users can access from online newspapers.

Newspaper publishers will get an option to set limits limit on the number of news articles people can access via Google and Google News, before being re-routed to a payment area or subscription page.

The UK's leading regional newspaper groups, Johnston Press, recently made the controversial decision to charge users £5 for three month's access to its local news sites.

First click free

Google is calling the programme 'First Click Free' – part of a move to placate newspaper publishers that are concerned about Google's growing dominance in the online news arena.

"Previously, each click from a user would be treated as free," said Google Senior Business Product Manager Josh Cohen.

"Now, we've updated the programme so that publishers can limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing."

While hardly a groundbreaking move, 'First Click Free' is surely in part a response to Rupert Murdoch's recent war on free online news.

Google users may start seeing registration pages appear when they click for a sixth time on any given day at websites of publishers using the program, according to Mr Cohen.