In one corner the battle-hardened bruiser of the old media world, in the other the cocky young giant of the web. The fight between Rupert Murdoch and Google over how online journalism should be funded is quite a spectacle. Now it appears that Google may have blinked by making it just a tiny bit harder for readers to find a chink in newspaper paywalls.
Rupert Murdoch has made clear his desire to see other papers in his worldwide stable follow the Wall Street Journal’s lead in asking readers to pay for at least some of their online journalism. And he’s also expressed, in forceful terms, his view that Google – and the BBC for that matter – are an obstacle to those plans because they provide a route to so much free news.
One particular bugbear for all newspapers is that a Google search allows readers access to their content even if it is behind a paywall. But now, in a move announced on the Google news blog, publishers will be given a little more control.
Readers arriving via Google will be able to click through to five stories a day on a paid site like that of the Financial Times but if they try a sixth time they will come up against a subscription page.
Now in truth, this is quite a minor concession. How many people do use Google to seek out a story from just one source rather than the whole web? I’ve just tried and it’s quite hard work – you need to put “source: ‘Financial Times'” after your search term to find just FT articles, for instance. (That said, I have now clicked through to six stories and so far the new policy doesn’t seem to have been implemented.)
But this may still be a significant moment in the battle between old and new media. Rupert Murdoch has been mocked for attempting to put the genie of free web news back into the bottle – a hopeless mission according to the digital utopians. But by playing hardball, and apparently talking to Microsoft about a deal to make his content available only via the Bing search engine – he appears to have got the Google to blink. Round One to Murdoch then – but there’s a long way to go in this contest.
Courtesy of BBC front page