The search engine giant just announced a creative way to fund the content creators who produce the news and information you read online. Of course, it’s going to cost you -- but not much.
Google is testing a subscription service dubbed "Contributor" that would charge users $1 to $3 a month to skip the digital advertising pitches. Google is describing it as an experiment in additional ways to fund the web in an era where crowdsourcing is shaking up traditional funding models.
Google rightly points out that today’s Internet is mostly funded by advertising. Internet ad revenues climbed to a historic first half-year high of $23.1 billion, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Internet Advertising Report released in October.
“Consumers living online is no longer the exception -- it is the rule,” said Sherrill Mane, Senior Vice President, Research, Analytics and Measurement of IAB. “Digital screens have become vital tools at every juncture of the day. It is no surprise that brand dollars have followed this growing movement at a steady clip.”
Which Sites Are Participating?
Despite the success of relying on advertisers to support free content for readers, Google wants to test another approach that directly supports the people who create the sites you see every day. The search-giant hopes Google Contributor will be part of that solution. If you want to try it, you’ll have to join the waiting list.
The basic premise works like this: You choose a monthly contribution, visit participating sites, and support the people who make the web. Subscriptions range from $1 to $3 a month. The more you contribute, Google said, the more you support the Web sites you visit.
“When you visit a participating website, part of your contribution goes to the creators of that site,” Google said on the Contributor website. “As a reminder of your support, you’ll see a thank you message -- often accompanied by a pixel pattern -- where you might normally see an ad.”
Google has launched with several publishing partners on board. Mashable, wikiHow, ScienceDaily, The Onion, Urban Dictionary, and imgur are participating in the initial experiment.
One Analyst Is Skeptical
We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his take on Contributor. Ideally, he told us, this program would find value among those who don’t want to see ads and don’t want to be tracked. However, he said, given the online ads are typically not as invasive as TV ads, much of the value may be on the privacy side. The only problem is, he doubts the privacy value will be actually delivered.
“I don’t think Google can effectively turn off tracking automatically when you are on sites like this, nor do I think they are motivated to fix this problem,” Enderle said. “A service that turned off ads and tracking would likely have a great deal of value, but I question whether [a service] that simply turned off ads would provide value in line with the aggravation of managing a bunch of new automatic payments.”
Once consumers start these sorts of subscriptions, he argued, they tend to be a pain to track and turn off. There is a also a chance that changing credit cards to blanketly get rid of nagging subscription charges might end up hurting your credit scores for unpaid bills.
“A better idea might be a bundled deal that gave you access to a number of sites without ads and protected you against Google (and others) spying on you,” Enderle said. “That way, you’d only have one payment to manage and the privacy value would be more pronounced and enforceable.”