Google offers to cap free access to online newspaper articles

NEWS publishers will be able to set a limit on the number of free news articles people can read via Google&rsquo;s search engines, the internet giant announced yesterday in a move that could improve its fractured relationship with the media industry.<br /><br />Google has infuriated publishers for giving news content away for free. News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, who controls The Times and The Sun, has said that there is &ldquo;no such thing as free news&rdquo; and that media companies should charge for content and stop news aggregators,&nbsp; such as Google, from &ldquo;feeding off the hard-earned efforts and investments of others&rdquo;. <br /><br />Currently publishers cannot simply block Google from indexing its stories as it would cut traffic to their sites, hurting advertising revenues.<br /><br />Murdoch has threatened to dump Google and has been in talks with Microsoft&rsquo;s search engine Bing about a tie-up that would lock out Google. <br /><br />But Google is now offering to hand back some control to publishers by modifying its &ldquo;First Click Free&rdquo; scheme to restrict users to only viewing five free pages a day before being asked to subscribe or register. <br /><br />Google senior business product manager Josh Cohen yesterday stressed that publishers and Google could coexist and said talks would continue with publishers to make their subscription content discoverable. Cohen said in an official blog: &ldquo;After all, whether you&rsquo;re offering your content for free or selling it, it&rsquo;s crucial that people find it. Google can help with that.&rdquo;