Would you trade ads for a monthly payment? Google wants users to rethink the way their favorite websites are funded.
The company on Thursday launched a beta program called Contributor by Google. With a handful of participating websites, the program is focused on enabling people to make a monthly contribution to a website in lieu of seeing ads on it.
"Today's Internet is mostly funded by advertising," the company wrote on its Contributor site. "But what if there were a way to directly support the people who create the sites you visit each day?"
Here's how it works at this point. Beta users can choose between participating sites, which include WikiHow, the Onion and Mashable. Then they can opt to pay between $1 and $3 a month.
"The more you contribute, the more you support the websites you visit," Google states. "When you visit a participating website, part of your contribution goes to the creators of that site. 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."
"This is interesting on a lot of vectors," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "Google derives most of its revenue from advertising, so the fact it's testing a non-advertising model is fascinating ... Instead of having someone else out-innovate Google on their own business model, they are experimenting with it themselves."
The benefit to users is clear. Pay a small fee and users don't have to see intrusive ads on the those sites.
For Google, the benefit is being at the forefront of a potential new payment model.
"It could only harm Google if Google isn't the company who reinvents and leads the next-generation business model," said Moorhead. "Google, as intermediary, can still get paid a certain percentage of the transaction. I think this is a test of the user experience, not the business model."
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