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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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.

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.
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.
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?
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!
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?
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.

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?
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.

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.
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