Dean Singleton vs. Google: Chalk up two for Dean

Denver Post publisher and MediaNews Group boss Dean Singleton thinks putting articles behind online pay walls may be a way to save the newspaper business -- a strategy that's brought him into conflict with Google, which makes its nut by pointing readers to stories they can read without deploying a credit card.

This week, however, Google has made not one but two policy shifts that give Singleton, and those moguls who'd like to follow in his footsteps, more options when it comes to erecting barriers between their content and non-subscribing web surfers.

Yesterday, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, Google announced that it would "let publishers block their content from Google News automatically by adding code to their Web sites instead of by contacting Google through an online form." This new policy followed another one the previous day, allowing "publishers to set a daily limit on the number of articles users can read for free through its search engine."

Singleton didn't exactly whoop it up in his comments to the Journal about the latter shift, saying, "It may or may not be a shallow signal, but I take it as a positive move on their part."

At this point, Singleton hasn't announced the building of a significant new paywall at the Post; he'll experiment with the concept at smaller MediaNews Group papers in California and Pennsylvania.

If these ideas work there, expect them to migrate to Denver. If they don't, Singleton may decide Google's previous approach wasn't so bad after all.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts