OPINION: Would you pay Google to cool it with the ads?

As an “experiment in additional ways to fund the web”, Google launched their Contributor project in November of last year. It’s a social experiment to see if users are willing to pay to remove ads, and by golly, we all really dislike internet ads, don’t we?

It really is one of the biggest concerns for the advertising and online publishing industry – internet users’ unbridled love of ad blockers. If you haven’t noticed, online ads fund everything from Facebook to YouTube and everything in between.

So here’s the kicker: Google’s proposed a new initiative – called Contributor – for internet users who hate ads so much, they would pay to see less of them. Operating as a subscription service, users pay anywhere from $2 to $10 per month, with that money going directly to websites that have partnered with Google on the scheme to replace the lost revenue from blocked ads. The more you pay, the less ads you see.

When it first started, Google asked people to pay $1 to $3 per month, but now that the service is starting to gain traction, the price has increased.  

According to Google, a thank you message accompanied by a pixel pattern will replace the space where the ad would normally be. So far, major partner websites have included UrbanDictionary, The Onion, WikiHow, Mashable and Imgur, as well as a number of other smaller websites.

It’s certainly an interesting move. After all, Google’s revenue is almost entirely derived from selling advertising through the use of Google AdWords and Google AdSense. Cost-per-click, Google’s modus operandi for charging its customers, has been steadily declining in the past few years, which may be why the tech giant is looking to expand its revenue streams.

At this stage, the service is invite only, though if you’re really interested you can sign up to be on the waiting list. Once you’re invited, you can see which sites participate, and then decide whether you would join the scheme or not.

Here at Idealog we think it’s an interesting idea, and the fact that digital content creators have been searching for alternative funding methods for years means this would be something worth trying.

Of course, at the end of the day, ad blockers are free, and that will be something Google will have to figure out a way to overcome. Interestingly, a recent study done on the use of ad blockers found that not only did users see less ads, ad blockers also reduce data loads by up to 25%. For Kiwis, having lived with data caps and high data prices for most of recent memory, that’s a rather large incentive in itself.

As one report has pointed out, ad-blocking software is hugely popular and growing exponentially, yet the marketing industry seems highly invested in the display advertising model, regardless of user distaste.

And with mobile web browsing starting to supplant desktop browsing, Apple looks set to become the next great roadblock, providing, as it does, developers with easy-to-use tools to build ad blockers.

So maybe, just maybe, Google might be on to something here. But we’re just a bit afraid to hope.