The approach initially sounds to me as silly, but as the BBC News article points out, one can see it as a minor concession to news publisher.
After read the blog post that announced this program (“First Click Free”) from Google for the full details. There is much more that meet the eye. The key here is (1) you must allow Google to index your website fully and (2) you must allow the first few articles linked through from Google search page to be viewed, in full, for free. The first is non-controversial, news website wants Google to index them and serve them up, the only thing they don’t want you to do is to read the content without paying. To news website, the decision to make is whether the trade off of allow the first few articles for free in full in return for Google indexing your website is worthwhile. This is a much more difficult decision to make.
What is in the deal for Google? As the Google blog post point out, it gives Google a more comprehensive database of information on the website. It will open up the serach engines to contents that are currently locked behind a subscription firewall.
For the users of Google, I see it as a mixed blessing. Now we have a way to access wall gardens, abeit limited. However, it also make building wall gardens more attractive, locking up contents that would otherwise be free.
Equally interestingly, Reuters reported that the sum does not add up to for a Bing deal that will exclude Google from Murdoch’s sites, This is something I had blogged before as being a strange deal. Coincident? I think so. This program is likely to be in the works for sometime now. I do not think it is in response to, or aim at Murdoch’s websites. Murdoch rumblings, if it has an impact, is probably to accelerate the program development.