Murdoch Wins, and So Does Google

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Looks like Rupert Murdoch wears a cape after all.

News Corp.'s (Nasdaq: NWS  ) pugnacious chief executive seems to have scored a victory over Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) . Yesterday morning, the Web's leading search engine introduced First Click Free, a refinement to its Google News portal designed to allow browsers to see one story before encountering a paywall.

"Previously, each click from a user would be treated as free. Now, we've updated the program so that publishers can limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing," wrote Google product manager Josh Cohen in this blog post.

That's an improvement, and it means The Big G took Murdoch's threat of an exclusive indexing deal with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Bing search engine seriously. But it also means that Larry, Sergey, and CEO Eric Schmidt blinked; they've kowtowed to the idea that links equal content, which of course they don't.

On the other hand, First Click Free could prove to be extremely attractive to newspapers and magazines that have yet to charge for their digital content. New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT  ) , Gannett (NYSE: GCI  ) , McClatchy (NYSE: MNI  ) , and perhaps BusinessWeek's new owner -- Bloomberg -- could use the service to experiment with monetizing certain types of stories via a try-and-buy program.

That could prove to be a welcome development for those still struggling with the do-we-or-don't-we decision of charging for digital content. And for Google, it has the added benefit of putting Microsoft back on the defensive.

In other words: Murdoch wins, but so does Google. Think I'm wrong? Missed part of the story? Sound off in the comments box below.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is busy making snow angels. Wheeeeeeee!

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  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2009, at 3:40 PM, jackdaniels08 wrote:

    Tim Beyers, your conclusions are just so off sometimes. You need to study the Google handbook. Google first and foremost serves users. So in this case, Google is staying true to the founders mission which is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google always fights for the user. In this case they are kowtowing to the wishes of News Corp so that users can still have that access, albeit limited. The danger for any media company that puts free click through limitations will most certainly cause a drop on the media company's ranking due to the limited times you can click though to the media company's site since ranking is determined largely by traffic numbers. Most users will go the 5 click through distance and then when they are blocked for the rest of the day will simply move on to the tens of thousands of other media sites out there.

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