Google Launches Contributor To Reinvent the Way We Fund the Web

Thank You Button on Modern Computer Keyboard with Word Partners on It.

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What if instead of seeing ads online you paid a couple of bucks to your favourite sites?


The web is funded by ads. But so many people hate seeing them, and they often resent all the data tracking that props them up. It’s a clash that has become a major pain point for news websites and other publishers.

The rise of ad blockers, which let people surf the web without these annoying ads, is also blocking their revenue.

But Google is now offering a service that aims address both sides of this rather complicated issue.

Launched on Thursday, the service is called Google Contributor, and it asks you to pay $1, $2, or $3 a month to back the websites you particularly like. In exchange for your support, you’ll see “thank you” messages where ads used to be—at least on the websites that participate in the program. At the moment, Google is testing the idea with 10 online publishers, including The Onion, ScienceDaily, Urban Dictionary, and Mashable.

The thank-you notes are served up through Google’s existing advertising channels, and Google still takes a cut of each contribution. According to Google, the $1 to $3 users pay essentially covers the cost of that ad space. But all of this is subject to change, she says, as the platform develops. “At this point, what we’ve rolled out is very much an experiment,” a Google spokesperson tells Wired. “We’re getting the publishers on board today. We’ll see not just how it works but also the public interest level.”

This type of thinking makes sense. If people are going to gripe constantly about ads and having their personal data sold to advertisers, why not ask them to put a nominal amount of money where their mouths are? Google Contributor tries to appeal to readers’ sense of ethics, urging them to believe that the content they enjoy is well worth spending $1 a month.

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