September 26, 2012 by newsgetting
Rupert Murdoch’s News International is to make headlines and limited content from Times and Sunday Times articles available on Google search, two years after the newspapers were put behind a strict digital paywall. News International will start allowing the first two sentences of articles to appear within Google’s search listings, as part of a “limited free preview” strategy to attract new readers to its paid-for digital subscription packages. The new strategy will offer a few sentences of articles with a button to click through which says “subscribe now to see full article”. This move marks the first easing of News International’s paywall, which in May 2010 completely stopped the indexing of articles from Google – even headlines – in what was described at the time as an “all or nothing” paid-for digital strategy. Times editor James Harding claimed at the time that taking the newspapers’ content completely behind a paywall would not reduce the impact of its journalism. “We live in such an interconnected world that the amplifier effect of the modern media is such that no good story, no interesting piece of commentary is going to be lost – in fact quite the opposite,” he said. However, the introduction of a limited free preview strategy is an acknowledgment that there is a difficulty in maintaining the growth rate of new paid-for digital subscribers without widespread, free access to at least some content. Section pages, such as sport and business, have been available to view for free on Google for some time. However it is not possible to click through to see any content and individual stories do not index on Google News. As at the end of July the Times had 132,777 digital-only subscribers and the Sunday Times 126,137, according to News International. The publisher has experimented with the impact of allowing limited free access to its websites before. In May the Times and Sunday Times were made free-to-access over the jubilee weekend. News International’s Sun has remained free to access online, although the publisher had indicated in 2010 that all of its newspaper websites would eventually become paid-access only.
By Mark Sweney (The Guardian reporter)