Not everybody loves ads, but that’s how almost all web publishers manage to survive and make a profit. And that’s how Google has managed to make billions of dollars so far. But now the search giant is taking a different approach with the new Google Contributor Program. So, instead of having to deal with ads, those who use Contributor will be able to donate between $1 and $3 per month to see Contributor partner sites without any advertising.
Of course, that money goes to the participating sites, but it’s not sure for how much of Google’s cut is. After all, not only the websites will lose money, but also Google. Since the program is still in its infancy, there are just a few partners that have been announced by Google. Some of the most popular ones are Mashable, The Onion, Science Daily, Imgur, WikiHow, and Urban Dictionary.
There’s no indication that the sites themselves will deny access to those who don’t participate in Contributor. And there’s every reason to believe that every site in existence wouldn’t want to persuade their readers to pay up a few bucks per month. Online ad metrics are difficult to quantify, but this recent leaderboard of advertising zones places the top ad at just $2.90 per 1,000 impressions, or views. Chances are that the most dedicated readers aren’t visiting a site 1,000 times per month—although if enough sites sign on, your Contributor dollars may be sliced up tens or hundreds of ways.
Additionally, this new Google program will not remove all of the ads from websites. It will only remove Google ads from select sites. The next elephant in the room is why Google would be willing to remove their own ads from sites for a fee that goes to the sites? Because Google will be taking an undisclosed cut of the payments. Forbes reported in 2013 that the use of ad-blocking was on the rise, with an estimated 22.7 percent of web users utilizing the browser add-ons. The ad blockers crowd has been growing at a rate of approximately 43 percent per year.
How can I sign up?
Initially access to Contributor is via invitation only, similar to the launch of many of Google’s other services including Gmail and the new Inbox app. Users can sign up for a waiting list to be invited. Once invited users can see which sites are participating in the scheme and choose whether to join or not. Everything is handled through a Google account, which means the user has to be logged into that Google account while browsing to trigger the Contributor system rather than adverts on participating sites.
What about the ads?
The ads are replaced with a small message thanking them for being a contributor. The space where the advert would have been is filled with a pixelated pattern, instead of being removed entirely, apart from on mobile devices where the publisher can choose to have them removed.
Is this the future of the web?
Many different funding mechanisms have been tried over the years to pay for web content. Paywalls such as those used by the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and the Times are the latest experiment at making money from readers without relying solely on advertising. Those sites still show advertising, however.
The Google Contributor program is still in its experimental stage and only a handful of websites are participating it. Google will see how it goes and then decide about the future of this program. If it works – many will join and the program may take off. Google and other online advertising companies have been seeing decreasing revenues. It costs money to generate content, which is available for free to anyone. This gets funded by ads. But some do not want to see ads, hence use ad blockers to block them. This rise in the use of ad blockers is reducing the revenue of websites.
The end-point is, as a user what would you prefer? Seeing the ads or paying Google to not see the ads. Or would you as a user, voluntarily allow ads on some websites, by disabling your ad blocker for some sites or white list some sites, like say, this one?