Google have just launched a new service for publishers called Contributor. Here is how it works.

  1. A Publisher signs up to the service
  2. Consumers can also sign up for the service with a monthly contribution of their choice
  3. When a signed-up consumer visits a signed-up publisher, some of their monthly contribution is paid to the publisher
  4. In this situation, consumers don’t see Google ads but instead a nice thank you message

It is a little hard to know what to make of this. My first reaction is that it is good to see experiments like this, you never know what is going to work.

Then, of course, the hard headed economist comes to the fore. I can see how a publisher might like this: they may get more from consumers visiting their site this way than from ads. But what about consumers? It isn’t like they get a site that is designed in a way that is ad-free. Instead, they get a thank you in the place of an ad. (I should preface this by noting that on mobile sites the ads may disappear altogether so that may be a benefit). You might think that would provide a warm-glow but shouldn’t our attitude be when we see an ad that it is a publisher’s way of saying thank you for your attention? I know that sounds counter-intuitive but it is objectively the same thing if you have the right attitude. And let’s face it a warm glow is just an attitude, right?

But let’s suppose that this works. Actually, there is some pretty decent upside for Google. In effect, when a publisher-contributor match occurs, a Google ad is displaced and an advertiser loses out. If this was a big deal, then advertisers would have to compete more intensely for the remaining advertising space (i.e., publisher-contributor non-matches). Ad prices will rise and so will Google’s bottom line. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I’m just pointing out the full effects.

Given that, should Digitopoly pop on this bandwagon? It is great for me as I don’t actually have to ask for contributions, I only have to hope that there are some readers out there who have made contributions. Then again, we don’t have any ads — Google or otherwise — on this site (well, except for some Amazon links I guess). Maybe I had better put some Google ads there so that contributors get a benefit.

2 Responses to Google’s New Market for Contributions

  1. jimancona says:

    Perhaps you hit upon Google’s real motivation in your last sentence!

  2. Luis Enrique says:

    Wow, I actually sent this idea in to googles suggestions email address ages ago.

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