back to article Google shrinks its door to free WSJ stories, slightly

In a possibly meaningless response to Rupert Murdoch's War on Free, Google is to allow publishers to limit the number of free pages users of Google News can read on their sites. Up to now Google News has provided a mechanism for users to get access to content that is otherwise subscription-only (in, say, the Wall Street Journal …


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  1. Joe K

    Someone tell Murdoch....

    .....that the BBC news site exists.

    If he brings in those paywalls, everyone will just head to the bbc news site, more than they do already.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point

    Am I missing the point here?

    When I use Google News all I see is a snippet of the News story and a direct link to the actual article on the source site, not the whole article hosted on Google.

    As far as I can see Google is just changing its cloaking T&C and giving publishers more flexibility in what content is displayed in the snippets. The 5 pages or subscribe test is implemented by the publisher, not within Google News itself.

    All very confusing...

  3. John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Google shrinks its door to free WSJ stories, slightly

    No, wrong point. When you click on the link from Google News, you go through to the host site, right? Prior to the changes, you could click on as many WSJ links from Google News as you like, and always get the full story displayed. But now Google is permitting sites to put a five click (or more, if they so choose) daily cap on an individual's number of free reads.

    Yes, the cap is to be implemented by the publisher, not Google, but Google is setting the minimum the cap can be at 5. So one assumes that if a publisher just went ahead and served a registration page after one click, Google would kick them out of News.

    1. Annihilator

      Google no need

      This is crazy, I've just understood the "problem". Finding the story directly at WSJ gives a "preview" only, and a "click to subscribe" button. Finding at Google lets you click through the paywall and see the full article.

      This is clearly WSJ's choice to allow this behaviour. Google has given the option to index subscriber content, but not cache it or allow click-thru for years! (witness experts-exchange for the defense)

      WSJ *could* allow this to be tracked (the royal mail post code finder does this), and allow each unique visitor (even cross-session) to only see x-many pages in this way, but no, they're b1tching to Google and making them implement a solution. Cake and eat it springs to mind.

      1. marlint

        Re: Google no need


        Google does not give the option to index subscriber content without allowing clickthrough. Experts Exchange got in trouble for this ages ago, which is why- if you click through directly from Google to an Experts Exchange page you will be able to see all the unredacted answers (they are just hidden right down at the bottom of the page to try and confuse you).

      2. Cynical Observer


        The Royal Mail postcode finder limit is cookie based. Clear the cookie and you reset the limit.

        If the limit of 5 news articles via Google involves any mechanism that's dependent on cookies then I see a very quick way round the problem.

        Time will tell when we see the first instance of 5 strikes.

        1. Someone

          Re: Cookies

          Which is why Google are not being prescriptive in how publishers implement user counting. A publisher might use a more sophisticated algorithm based on cookies, Flash LSOs and IP addresses. Any publisher who wanted to minimise ‘cheating’ would also want to limit the number of false positives to a level that Google find acceptable.

      3. unitron

        Re: Cake and eat it springs to mind.

        Funny, telling the WSJ to eat it springs to my mind as well!

        Rupert must be a record company exec at heart, believing as he does that everybody now getting his product for free will, if blocked from doing so, pay full price.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Beeb

    In my experience (looking at our web filter logs) the majority of people use the BBC. Not Google, not any of NI's sites or any other news site. Indeed the beeb get more hits than all other news sites put together.

    I think Google are playing a game with Murdoch and his charged content buddies.

    "Google is letting the publishers decide how many clicks make five? What if they cheat, what happens? Does that maybe depend on who cheats, and does that maybe mean there's wiggle-room?"

    If some sites cheat and some sites decide not to require registration then I'm pretty sure people will tend to move towards the sites that remain free of charge and registration. Once the Google directed traffic dries up I'm sure NI and their allies will have a quick rethink.

    Murdoch's thinking is flawed. He clearly thinks that if he gets a certain number of visitors for free content then he will continue to get that many visitors when he charges. In effect he seems to believe X fee visits per day will amount to £X of revenue at £1 per visit. How wrong he is. Many other people have made that mistake before him. As has already been proved when you start to charge for a previously free web site your traffic almost dries up over night.

    Murdoch also needs to learn that if he wants to share the license fee with Aunty he will have to stop charging for content and stop all advertising. That is part of the agreement that the licence fee payers have with the BBC. That will mean no more sky subscriptions and no more advertising revenue. Bet it won't seem as attractive to him then.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Not at all.

      " Murdoch's thinking is flawed. ... In effect he seems to believe X fee visits per day will amount to £X of revenue at £1 per visit. "

      Not at all. Murdoch doesn't expect to get the same number of eyeballs.

      What he believes is that going from X million eyeballs at £0.00 per eyeball per month to a mere Y hundred at £5.99 a month is an infinite increase in income. One paying customer is worth a billion non-paying leeches.

      But then it's not probably not about the website at all. We're at a crossroads: free web has killed pay web, but people are still paying for stuff via iPhone apps that they could get for free on the net. EReader users are paying more for PDFs than they would pay for paperbacks. He needs to get into that market. Free web newspapers challenge that revenue stream.

      The appliance market is still open and that's the one Murdoch wants. More and more professional information will be migrating from the net to the appliance market. Goodnight interwebs.

    2. lpopman


      Channel 4 gets a percentage of the licence fee to pay towards film-making and factual based programming, and they have advertising.

      I still don't like the way Murdoch is acting, but what you describe will not stop anything in that respect....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It looks like Google are taking this seriously then. This is a typical response from a large company when presented with a potential regulation of their activities. Supermarkets and the food industry have been a classic example with food labeling (they chose their own, before having one forced upon them).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I see another dot com bubble type effect

    people will consume content for free that they will never pay for and will move to another free provider rather than pay anything at all.

  7. Kwac
    Thumb Up

    Can't wait

    for ALL of Murdoch's press to get off line.

    Should do a bit to raise the level of awareness of current affairs/politics amongst a fair proportion of the population.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Beeb on borrowed time

    Some of the previous comments provide a clue as to what price Murdoch has extracted from the tories in return for switching his media support to them for the next election - restricting the BBC to non-commercial activities, including no news web site, as part of a slow strangulation strategy that avoids the option of allowing the BBC to become a commercial competitor.

    Incidentally the huge political commitment to climate change by all the major parties in the UK goes a long way to explain why a nervous BBC has been slow to discuss the climate rumpus (always wanted to use that word) and why they have not mentioned the discussion in the CRU emails on how to deal with their 'not on message' employee Paul Hudson.

  9. Anthony Shortland

    getting boring now.

    Come on Murdoch, if you're serious about this then just remove WSJ from google. There is no need to wait for all the other publications paywalls to be in place, just do it and prove how right you are? or maybe you're wrong. Or more likely, you're just bluffing to see what you can get out of google - and assuming google will be scared of you. oh dear.

  10. Deadlock Victim

    It's a sham, but...

    Google is just doing this so it looks "nicer" to the various government regulators that are taking a long look at the power it holds.

  11. HaplessPoet


    Most, if not all "news" stories are simultaneously published by pretty much every "newspaper's" website on the planet! So WGAF if the WSJ want you to register. Anytime that happens to me I clcik "back" and take the next link, same story different website.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    stop wasting our time on this issue

    Dear Mr Murdoch would you just go ahead and have one of your minions properly fill out robots.txt and STFU already.


    Teh Internets

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    It might work

    In being on the web for 15 years, the WSJ is the only website I pay money to subscribe to. I've been a paying customer of theirs for several years now and am happy with what they provide and the value I receive. They have news and angles that you can't get anywhere else and, IMHO, are more exhaustive and accurate on both business and international news.

  14. Jeremy 2

    Bollocks, this is WSJ's problem, not Google's.

    So following the instructions from the Silicon Alley Insider, I was able to find a story that if I attempt to view from within the WSJ website, I see a preview of but that if I attempt to view from a Google search, I see the whole thing (hosted on with an identical URL).

    So obviously the WSJ are analysing referrers or tracking cookies or something to determine where clicks into story pages originate and serving either the cut down or full version accordingly. If they're too dumb to turn that off and only show full stories to authenticated, paid-up users *and* Google's crawlers (hence still getting the traffic from Google News) then that's their own problem, not Google's.

    We need a Stupid Murdoch icon.

  15. Steve Roper

    Murdoch the Media Megalomaniac

    needs to wake up to the realities of the Internet. Google should call this bastard's bluff. Go ahead, Murdoch - block Google from indexing your sites. Watch as the entire world no longer sees your sites in their search results and go elsewhere for their news. Watch as your once monopolistic media empire crumbles into dust as it deserves.

    And nothing of value was lost.

  16. Displacement Activity

    "Do no evil"?

    From the Silicon Insider comments, in response to the instructions on how to get WSJ articles for free:

    "Sue on Jun 1, 12:22 PM said:

    Nick, you're a true sleaze.

    My father was laid off from the WSJ 4 months ago, we've moved from our modest 3bedroom home to small 2 room place, and my parents are always fighting now.

    Let businesses try to figure their model out without helping the general public steal from them. In the end, it hurts real people no matter how harmless you think your post may be. "

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