With annual advertising revenue exceeding $60bn, Google is one of the companies that stands to lose the most from the rise of ad blockers.

Recognizing that ad blockers are here to stay, Google is trying to make sure it has a seat at the table and can influence the ad blocking ecosystem. For instance, it joined the Coalition for Better Ads last year, and just announced it is preparing to build an adblocker into its Chrome browser that will remove ads that don't meet the Coalition's standards.

But that is just the start of Google's efforts to ensure that it doesn't lose out big time as ad blocking continues to grow. Last week, the Mountain View-based company launched Google Contributor, a new offering that allows users to pay to remove ads from the sites they visit.

Here's what you need to know about it..

It's an "ad removal pass for the web" 

Google Contributor allows users with a Google account to load $5 onto a virtual "pass" and opt into paying a per-page fee on sites that they don't want to see ads displayed on.

The per-page fee is set by the publisher. Users manage their pass from their Google accounts, eliminating the need to establish and manage accounts with each publisher. With a few clicks, users can opt out of paying for content and revert to seeing ads.

google pass

A range of publishers have signed up in beta

Google is going to help publishers deal with ad block users

Google is also launching a publisher solution called Funding Choices that works in conjunction with Contributor. When enabled, Funding Choices will give publishers the ability to identify users who are using an ad blocker and prompt them to either disable their ad blocker or opt-in to supporting the publisher through Contributor.

Google is beta testing Contributor

At launch, a dozen sites are part of the Google Contributor beta. These include Popular Mechanics, Business Insider (UK) and Townhall.

Google is, however, inviting interested publishers to apply to join the Contributor beta as it expands.

Google isn't the first to try micropayments

Google isn't the first company to try building a way for individuals to support sites through micropayments. Major companies like PayPal as well as startups like Flattr have tried to make micropayments a bigger part of the way consumers pay for content and services on the web, but none have cracked the code. Even so, entrepreneurs continue to launch micropayment schemes.

Google, of course, has some natural advantages that could help it succeed where others have failed, and coupled with publisher urgency to deal with ad blocking, the timing could be right.

Some see a conflict of interest

Some observers, however, are concerned that Google's decision to include an ad blocker in Chrome could turn it into the "judge and jury" of online ads, raising anti-trust concerns.

Google Contributor could eventually factor into the debate. After all, the inclusion of the ad blocker in Chrome will logically exacerbate the ad blocking problem for publishers at the same time Google is pushing a solution to deal with ad blocking that it stands to profit from if it works.

It could still be a tough sell

Google's size and position combined with publisher interest in micropayments as a solution to ad blocking won't necessarily help the search giant finally solve the micropayments puzzle.

In fact, Google Contributor isn't even Google's first foray into the world of micropayments. In 2011, it launched Google One Pass, "a service that lets publishers set their own prices and terms for their digital content." One Pass was shuttered in 2012.

While Contributor is not a carbon copy of One Pass, the harsh reality is that a large percentage of consumers are opposed to paying for content and don't feel an obligation to view ads. Therefore, convincing them that paying pennies (or fractions of a penny) at a time for viewing content without ads is probably going to remain a tough sell, especially as ad blocking technology becomes harder and harder to detect.

Notwithstanding consumers' appetite for micropayments, Google Contributor might not be so appealing to publishers, a number of which have turned to subscriptions to offset declines in ad revenue.

Unlike subscriptions, micropayments won't necessarily offer a predictible revenue stream and with Google sitting between them and their users, they won't have the opportunity to build direct relationships with the people who matter most to their business. What's more, consumers have for years demonstrated a preference for subscriptions over micropayments.

More on ad blocking:

Patricio Robles

Published 8 June, 2017 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)

Market Force

Market Force, Performance Marketing Manager at Marketforce @ Digital River

This does seem like a contradicting move for Google. Whilst I appreciate Google is about making the user journey online as smooth as possible, a big stake of their business is online advertising.

When ad blockers were first announced the online advertising world panicked, but when we look back at the numbers the effect of these hasn’t been anywhere near the scale that forecasters predicted. If anything they help brands target only users who actually want to see ads therefore improving viewable impressions and clicks and reducing wasted media spend. Ad blockers are no different to the introduction of Sky+ where the user could record a TV programme and fast forward the ads, yet TV advertising is still a massive revenue driver for the channels.

A typical online user realistically wouldn’t pay to block an ad and those that do pay most likely wouldn’t be in a typical target market of the majority of brands. This encourages smarter spending which is a good thing for brands and ultimately a good thing for Google as whilst they might not get the same amount of spend in one campaign period, more targeted spends that are producing results means the frequency of campaigns will increase.

It feels like Google should be spending more time in educating brands on how to make a great display creative that compliments a prospects user journey rather than trying to make them pay not to be “disturbed”.

about 1 year ago

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