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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.