Google's Contributor an 'experiment' in low threshold paywalls

Websites are funded by ads. You probably see them right now on either side of this text. A lot of the ads you see on the web at large are courtesy of Google, who has one of the largest ad networks around. Paywalls exist for seeing content without ads, but you'd almost have to be a superfan of the site to pay upfront to see the content within. In what's being billed as an "experiment", Google has released Contributor, their attempt at crowdfunding ad-free sites.

To launch Contributor, Google has inked partnerships with sites like Mashable, Imgur, Science Daily and WikiHow. Aside from Mashable, Google's partners were chosen because they don't have a huge amount of traffic. That feeds right into the "experiment label".

Via the Contributor site (currently access is invite only), a reader can choose to contribute $1, $2, or $3 monthly. Once they do, the ads on a site come down, and a message from the publisher pops up. Instead of ads, you'll see a blank space.

Of course, there are some interesting caveats. Google processes the donation, and likely takes a cut of the proceeds. The actual amount you donate doesn't seem to matter with regard to ads coming down, but donating more simply supports the website better. Your donation also only supports the site you specifically choose, and isn't pooled.

This also only applies to Google ads. Should a publisher have other partners for distributing ads on their site, you'd still see those.

Still, it's an interesting "experiment"; almost like ad revenue via the lack of ads for Google. Will it work on a big scale? That's doubtful, but it's a new revenue stream, which is why Google is exploring it, no doubt.

Source: Google