Are your favorite sites worth $1 a month? That may seem like an easy question to answer, and an absurdly low figure, but it's a major hurdle that Google has to overcome with its new subscription service. Google Contributor allows users an ad-free experiences on their favorite websites for a $1, $2, or $3 monthly fee. Basically, your contribution would help web publishers make up for some of the revenue lost through ad blockers. Plus, you'll get an ad-free experience, so it's a win-win. But free is free, and as long as ad blockers exist, Google has some convincing to do.
Google Contributor is a crowdfunding tool for publishers and is, essentially, an ethical compromise between being inundated with annoying ads while scrolling through content and installing ad blockers that drastically curb revenue to your favorite sites. Google's idea banks on the notion that if you really care about the content you love, then it's worth paying $1-$3 a month for it, especially if it benefits both sides. It's similar to how Spotify uses its Premium subscription service to help give back to the music industry. And an added benefit for the contributor, besides avoiding all those pop-ups, is that your data won't be tracked and mined, so you're also paying for more privacy.
So how does it work? Google Contributor, which is still in its experiment stage, has signed on 10 participating websites so far, including The Onion, Mashable, Imgur, ScienceDaily, and Urban Dictionary. So if you contribute to one of these sites, you would be able to browse its pages without seeing any Google ads. In their place would be a message that says, "Thank you for being a Contributor." Sounds so much nicer than "This one weird trick will banish your belly fat." If you're interested in becoming a Google Contributor, you can join the waitlist.
It's unclear at this time how your experience will change depending on your contribution amount, but Google does get a portion of it. As for how Google will split the subscription revenue, Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville told CNET, "The amount we keep is the same we charge advertisers to show their ads." It seems, at least for now, that the main motivation for subscribers is to support their favorite sites in exchange for less ads.
However, at this phase of the service, Google is unsure if that's asking too much of web users. Google Contributor is debuting at a time when the use of ad blockers continues to grow at a steady rate. Last year, PageFair, a website that helps other sites track when their ads get blocked, released a report that found that as many as 30 percent of web users were blocking ads on sites, and that the number of ad blockers was rising at a 43 percent rate per year. If installing ad blockers is that commonplace, then hopefully users will recognize the incentive to support their favorite sites. However, if Google is banking on the same mentality that compels fans to give back to their favorite musicians, it might take a little more convincing because Urban Dictionary is not Taylor Swift.