Google Contributor: Pay To Block Ads - InformationWeek

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11/21/2014
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Google Contributor: Pay To Block Ads

Google launched a new service that blocks ads on some websites in exchange for a nominal monthly subscription.

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Google launched a new service on Thursday that lets users pay to browse certain websites devoid of distracting ads -- and the data tracking that often supports them.

Google Contributor is invite-only and uses a crowdfunding-based model in which users pledge $1, $2, or $3 per month to support the program's partner websites. In exchange, Google will block the ads it serves to them.

But unlike traditional ad blockers, Google's Contributor doesn't block revenue to the websites. While it takes a small cut of your monthly fee, it divides the rest among the partner websites you visit -- giving you a cleaner browsing experience while still supporting your favorite websites.

Ten publishers have signed on with Google Contributor at launch, including Mashable, The Onion, Urban Dictionary, WikiHow, ScienceDaily, and Imagur. When subscribers visit these websites, they'll see a pixelated box where an ad would have appeared with a thank-you note that reads, "Thank you for being a Contributor."

[Verizon knows more about your online browsing habits than you think. Read Verizon Wireless Embroiled In Tracking Controversy.]

Contributor works on all current versions of major browsers as well as mobile apps. Advertisers won't be charged for the ads that it blocks, a company spokesperson said.

While Google's business model is almost entirely based on ad revenue -- in Q3 ads accounted for 89% of its $16.5 billion -- the online ad industry isn't as strong as it once was, according to Rebecca Lieb, an analyst with Altimeter Group.

"Clearly, publisher sites are struggling to monetize with advertising, as banner ad rates become increasingly commoditized and fall," she said in an email. "Consumers interact with ads less too, calling their effectiveness very much into question."

Whether or not Google's new approach will succeed depends on a few factors. The first, Lieb said, is whether consumers will participate at scale. While users complain about online advertising and the data ads collect, will they actually be willing to trade a nominal monthly fee for an improved experience?

The second obstacle involves the number and type of partner websites that sign on, said Rob Shavell, CEO of online privacy company Abine.

"The main roadblock for micropayments to replace ads is really around getting so many websites to sign up for the system that would pay them for users who don't want to see ads," Shavell said in an email. "It is likely on browser providers like Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft, which have the reach to make anything in micropayments a reality."

This isn't the first time Google has given consumers a choice in how their attention is monetized. In 2012, the company launched Screenwise, a program that users could opt into that tracks the sites they visited and how they used them. In exchange, Google gave participants a $5 Amazon gift card for installing the extension, and another $5 gift card for every three months they stayed in the Screenwise program.

Most recently, Google launched a new YouTube service called Music Key, which lets you stream music ad-free for $8 per month.

Employers see a talent shortage. Job hunters see a broken hiring process. In the rush to complete projects, the industry risks rushing to an IT talent failure. Get the Talent Shortage Debate issue of InformationWeek today.

Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/21/2014 | 2:59:56 PM
Weigh in
What do you think, readers? Would you pay up to view your favorite sites sans ads?
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2014 | 3:34:19 PM
Re: Weigh in
Personally, I've gotten so used to ads that I really stop noticing them often.  Would I pay a small fee to have them completely removed?  Depends on the sites that are supported and if their ad placement actually impacts the site (you know those pesky pop-ups), but honestly, I think most of us have just passed that point where we almost expect ads on every site we visit.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2014 | 5:43:51 PM
Re: Weigh in
@Stratustician, I agree about ads, but I think what's more alarming is how ads and cookies track you and your data across the web. That might be more of a driver to support something like this.
driverlesssam
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driverlesssam,
User Rank: Strategist
11/22/2014 | 8:46:12 AM
Sounds like extortion to me
"Extortion - Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced byorganized crime groups."  (and Google in this case).
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
11/22/2014 | 1:35:48 PM
Re: Sounds like extortion to me
>> But unlike traditional ad blockers, Google's Contributor doesn't block revenue to the websites. While it takes a small cut of your monthly fee, it divides the rest among the partner websites you visit -- giving you a cleaner browsing experience while still supporting your favorite websites.

 

So does the NY Times, etc. etc. get reimbursed for the flashy ads they are serving up that I now don't see? And if I bought something from one of those ads that I now don't see, how does that impact their revenue model?

Google, et. al. led the industry to the Ad business, and now says you don't have to see the ads. 

The company has gotten so big and rich it can pretty much do as it wants, even if it is a bad strategy.
CVCS_info
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CVCS_info,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2014 | 9:26:52 AM
Where are we headed?
I have to wonder...where are we headed when we are expected to pay money so we won't be harrassed by advertisements. Exactly what kind of society are we living in?

Is the concept of "humanity" relevant anymore? From the messages I am bombarded with, it appears the answer is NO! The only thing that seems to counts is how much money can be extracted from us.

Just to mess with the "program", what do you think money is? Surprise, it is NOT what we are told.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 2:34:09 PM
Re: Where are we headed?
I agree that an excessive amount of ads can cause all kinds of problems for the user. However, ads are a vital component that enables modern economies, through economies of scale and diversity of products/services. It's one of those areas that deal with a trade-off.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
11/22/2014 | 11:25:13 AM
Silliness
This is the same business model that the Net Neutrality activists are so scared of.

I...I... I don't get it.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 2:37:32 PM
Re: Silliness
@Joe, I think you have nailed it on the head. It would be much easier to allow for a data provider to charge extra for access to non-ad-enabled websites. Next, the provider could take their share, giving the remainder to Google, followed by, Google taking its share and forwarding the remainder to publishers.
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
11/22/2014 | 12:09:59 PM
Whose ads?
Google serves ad.

User pays Google to not serve ad.

Sounds legit.
Nemos
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Nemos,
User Rank: Strategist
11/23/2014 | 9:54:35 AM
Re: Whose ads?
Of course it is legal but it sounds a bit crazy at the same time. Have in mind that in same cases you can't recognize which is the content and which is the advertisement. From the other hand, as long most of the services from Google remain free of charges to the users I believe we can "tolerate" as users some strange policies as the above.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/24/2014 | 12:00:16 PM
Re: Whose ads?

I cannot believe what Google is doing here.   I really can't believe it.  This kind of shady business offering from a company that has made billions doing exactly what they offer to stop.   It is simply ludicrous ! 

 I am beginning to loose some respect for Google.   I will continue to use their tools as I always have but this - this really shows me that the concerns in the back of head regarding Google held more truth in them than  even I would like to believe.

 This really is incredible.

Nemos
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Nemos,
User Rank: Strategist
11/23/2014 | 9:43:53 AM
ADV
"Clearly, publisher sites are struggling to monetize with advertising, as banner ad rates become increasingly commoditized and fall,"

That is so true, and perhaps one of the biggest problems that many editors are facing today, therefore the users have been bombed with advertisements and the sites are not earning anything. I don't believe the Google solution will help to defuse the current situation, but I always have in mind that almost all the google services are free of charge because of the advertisement policy.
zaious
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zaious,
User Rank: Ninja
11/23/2014 | 6:07:04 PM
In simple words
Sites need Ad revenue to survive. 'The Onion' will not survive if it does not get Ad revenue. Now, I do not want to see Annoying Ads in the site. I would like to pay 'The Onion' few bucks, and Google is now mediating the transaction.
               -This is what I understood. And, I have the freedom not to pay (and see the ads). Does not look very evil (and not very noble). It is just a business model.

Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/24/2014 | 10:00:28 AM
Re: In simple words
@zaious If that's how it works, would the pledge of $1-$3 each month go for each subscription service, or does one arrange one flat fee for all of them?
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
11/24/2014 | 1:05:29 PM
Re: In simple words
Yeah @zaious, this is pretty bogus stuff. The Onion could survive by simply charging a subscription to people that want to read it, like we did with magazines/newspapers for how many years? This idea you can provide a "free" service but still monetize it has always seemed pretty shady to me.

This new thing with Google is like someone dumping trash in your yard but then telling you for a small monthly fee that they will stop. Didn't someone like Al Capone invent that business model?
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/24/2014 | 1:27:06 PM
Re: In simple words
LOL @ TerryB someone has to come up with a cartoon to depict that: the new racket: putting out ads and then offering to sell you protection from them!
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/24/2014 | 3:25:56 PM
Re: In simple words
Online publishers would be very happy if people would pay a small subscription fee. But would you really pony up?
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
11/24/2014 | 4:45:15 PM
Re: In simple words
I've been getting Sports Illustrated for 30 years. I used to pay $149 a year for SYSTEMNEWS400, magazine focused on IBM AS400/i5 server and community. I wasn't paying for the paper, made no difference to me if digital or not. That magazine, even digital, is toast now. Must not be many of us left. :-)

I've was getting Computerworld and then your magazine for a long time in print, although they have always been free, guessing supported by ads for a long time. Again, conversion to digital from paper no big deal. I'd probably pay for InfoWeek, great magazine for staying in touch what is going on in industry. Same for IndustryWeek that I subscribe to. Working for manufacturer, keeps me in touch with best practices.

But things like Onion, personally probably not. Doesn't mean not funny though, I only have so much time for reading.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/24/2014 | 8:02:40 PM
Re: In simple words

"...But would you really pony up? "

@Laurianne    Yours is a really reasonable question.  And to be honest ( which I always am) - I probably would not.  I hate in general to pay for information at all.   I kissed the NY Times and Bloomberg good-bye for this very reason.  I used to love reading their articles and then one day - it was you have to register and pay  and that was that.    

 

I think the NY Times has changed their model some where you still can access information, but I haven't been back to Bloomberg since - just too much information out there if you know how to look for it.    I hate this for online publishers but a new revenue model will show itself soon enough.

Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 2:28:55 PM
Re: In simple words
The website end is equally interesting as different ads have different levels of ROI. For instance, an ad for a flashlight might have a 1 cent value on average but an ad for a new car might have a $100 value. Websites that have high value traffic might never signup for Google's service.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 4:46:09 PM
Re: In simple words

@Brian.Dean   Interesting.  I am not familiar with the valuing of Web Ads, so what you mention brings an interesting angle to the entire question.   Given this I agree, high value traffic would have little interest in Google's service.

Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
12/2/2014 | 5:28:37 AM
Re: In simple words
@Technocrati ...Not to mention that there are excellent aggregators of out there that are more efficient in finding compelling content than you would be on your own -- and are better able to source it.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
12/2/2014 | 5:26:56 AM
Re: In simple words
In this world of copycat journalism and journalism by clickbait lists, there's really very little out there I'd be willing to pay for.


Plus, I'm a writer.  I can write my own entertainment.  ;)
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
11/24/2014 | 7:11:40 PM
Working both sides of the street?
In publishing, this is a new business model. The basic thrust is, Google charges an advertiser to place an ad. Secondarily, it charges your site if you do not want ads placed on it. It's not previously  been possible, say in the world of print publishing, to work both sides of the street at the same time.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 5:26:36 PM
Hello & Welcome
Evidently, Google is unaware of the many ad blocker extensions for its browser that are FREE of charge. 
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 7:33:35 PM
Re: Hello & Welcome
@askqn I am sure they are, but they donít expect us to be (aware).
ads google
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ads google,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/5/2014 | 5:12:01 AM
ads google
your given good information on the ads thank for sharing this information
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