November 24, 2014

Ad Free Future for the Internet?

Google just recently launched a project called Contributor which allows for users to pay to have access to particular websites without any advertising.

Traditionally, advertising has supported free access to content on the Internet for majority of websites. Google has taken a substantial share of the advertising spent on the internet not just via their search engine but also through their Google Display Network.

How does Contributor work?

Step 1: Users select their monthly contribution rate (between $1-$3).
Step 2: Visit the participating sites. Part of the contribution goes to the website and as a reminder of your support, a thank you message will appear, often accompanied by a pixel-pattern where ads normally appear.

Some websites who are already using this include Mashable, imgur, wikiHow and the Onion.

Again Google continues to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible. Instead of milking the existing business model that works so well for them, Google continues to experiment and challenge the status quo.

Personally, I think this new model works side by side with the old model instead of working against it. How? Well, users have to log-in to their Google accounts in order for them to access the web-free environment. This allows Google to accurately profile the user while surfing. Currently, this is done using 3rd party cookies and most people still surf websites anonymously (not logged into Google for instance). 3rd party cookies will capture the behavior of users but in effect it does not have any of your own personal information stored on it. 

Imagine if Google had direct access to that information? It would allow them to further improve the way they serve advertising on websites that choose to use advertising to monetize their content. It would be able to profile the surfing behavior of its users outside of Google platforms. It will know not just your behavior but also your name and other details.

As such, this product doesn't mean the end of advertising on the internet. Unless all websites migrate their business models to the subscription model (highly unlikely), it appears that both models will operate and exist side by side. It appears to me that what Google has done is put itself in a better position to take the advantage of the situation compared to most of its peers who still continue to embrace the status quo. By offering both publishers and consumers an alternative model to use, Google is showing us that it is serious about maintaining its dominance in the marketplace.