Google Contributor: The End of Online Advertising? New Ad-Free Browsing Subscription

Reading Time: 6 mins

Online advertising has long been a normality when browsing the internet, but Google Contributor wants to change all that. Google are experimenting with a subscription-based model which removes advertising from select publishing sites online, so you can have the best possible experience.

But why are Google going against their own advertising business, and why now?

What is Google Contributor, and how does it work?

For now, it’s a US service which provides a blissful ad-free browsing experience on the web, in exchange for a monthly subscription cost.

Right now, it costs between $1 to $3, which seems fairly reasonable, and allows users to read content on partnered websites without being subjected to advertising. Despite this, they will see a thank you message where the advertisement would have been shown, with a pixellated background.

In essence, it’s a “premium” version of the internet as a whole, whereby ads will be removed from your regular free internet browsing experience. At least, if it expands in the future.

Google will make the same money they make by advertising on websites, but the participating sites will see less stability, depending on how much people pay, and how many adopt a subscription.

Google Contributor how it all works

What websites are taking part?

At the time of writing, there are a handful of partner websites taking place in the trial, including:

  • Imgur
  • Mashable
  • wikiHow
  • The Onion
  • Science Daily
  • Urban Dictionary

Each time one of these sites are visited, the user will pay a small amount of money from their monthly fee, which takes place of the advertising revenue which would otherwise be generated. These subscriptions will be tied to your Google account.

Of course, at this moment in time, if you don’t browse any of these sites, it’s a little useless. Google will inevitably take a cut from the fee, although it hasn’t disclosed how much exactly.

Google Contributor Online Advertising

Will Google Contributor work?

Realistically, it’s debatable whether a premium for ad-free browsing will really catch on. However, this model may open consumer eyes to how much value they get from advertising at large. It should give the free content available on the internet a new sense of value, with seeing adverts as a small price to pay.

Paywalls already exist for many sites, and they may ask why they should give Google a cut of the fees when they can do it themselves; gaining 100% of the fee, and display ads as well if they feel the need. The Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other websites all make money without relying entirely on advertisements.

Yet the benefit Google Contributor has, is that it could expand to many, many sites, and be an all-in-one subscription to entice users; rather than having to fork out several fees to browse their favourite websites. It’s time, effort, and money. Google has it’s very widespread Display Network too, which would inevitably be how it expands, if proven a success.

In theory, it’s a great plan. However, for all those who complain about advertising, it seems likely that most of these people won’t be willing to put money where their mouth is. If paywalls and crowd funding services were a successful option, they would have already been implemented on a larger scale. Yet this isn’t the case, with advertising remaining the main way for publishers to earn money from their content.

To get started, you will need an invitation, or you can sign up to a waiting list. So at this stage, it’s not going to impact the internet over time. And with only a handful of sites taking part, it’s questionable who uses these particular sites enough to pay them, even if they are relatively big names online. But the current short list may not be enticing enough for users to jump on board.

Why now?

Google is in the business to sell ads, that’s for certain. So this model does seem at odds with their business model. However, it could keep Google favourable with online publishers and content creators, who dislike the monopoly Google holds over search, and how much clout they have in how content is created.

One fact to remember is that for all of Google’s success, there is a mounting pile of failed projects that grace Google’s past. Remember Google Buzz, Google Wave, alongside Google Print and Radio Ads? In some ways, it’s good to see that Google will experiment, but many times they are simply thinking too far ahead and it’s the wrong time for implementation. Google Glass is a fantastic idea; but it’s debatable whether Google has come up with a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. Yet that’s another issue entirely.

If the project does fail, then it proves to be evidence in Google’s favour that users will happily put up with advertisements in order to browse the web for free. And nobody can moan that Google hasn’t given an alternative choice in the matter. At the very least, Google Contributor will act as an interesting experiment; for Google, marketers, and publishers to observe.

What are your thoughts? Would you pay for the privilege to browse your favourite sites without advertising cropping up? Let us know in the comments below, or over on Twitter @Xanthos Digital