What is Internet content worth in the digital age?
What is Internet content worth in the digital age?

Internet search giant Google is offering news providers a new way to attract paying subscribers without having to remove their content from Google's search results.  The proposal appears to be a compromise following threats by News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch to delist content from his news organizations unless Google pays for it. 

Google is making changes to the way it handles news content, in an apparent attempt to appease news providers who claim the Internet search giant is undermining their ability to charge subscribers.

In a blog post called "First Click Free," Google's senior business product manager Josh Cohen wrote:

"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."

The surprise move comes after reports that News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch is in discussions with Microsoft to deliver paid access to News Corporation content through rival search engine Bing.

John Ridding, the chief executive of Financial Times, an international newspaper based in Britain, welcomed the move.  "I think for the industry as a whole, it's very interesting and potentially important because there are a lot of publishers who haven't yet developed paid-for models, who are looking at a cyclical and structural decline in advertising revenues," he said.

At a time when newspaper circulation is declining rapidly around the world, Financial Times Web site (FT) says its subscriptions are up 22 percent, while revenues have jumped 30 percent. 

"I think for us, we've already developed a successful paid-for model, which is working very well for us," Ridding said. "And we're seeing very strong growth in subscriptions and subscription revenues."

FT's online readers can currently access up to 10 free stories per month before being prompted to subscribe.  But Ridding says the paper is working on a micropayments system which they expect to roll out as early as next year. 

Ridding says the bigger question is determining what content is worth in the digital age.