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.

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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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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?
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