I actually like the idea as it means revenue for the content creators no matter which way you go. I'm a firm believer in the fact that all things have a cost and that we need better ways to explore paying for content. Way back in the day, we did think that micro-payments like this test would be the way it worked and over time, advertising became the number one way to pay for content.
Today, there's a lot of debate about the value of online content and how we should pay for things. And, of course, many people don't think they should pay for anything online at all. Just this week, there was a breach of Sony's servers and many of their upcoming movies were released online and there are a lot of people who think that's OK. But digital content has costs as well and if we expect everything for free, I think you could start to see a decline in content quality. If you ask me, we've already seen that happen.
So kudos to Google for experimenting. I'll be curious to see how it turns out and hope that they do some case studies out of it.
From the article in CNET:
Sick and tired of all those ads? Google is testing a program called Contributor that lets you subscribe to the Web.
Well, not to the whole Web -- just to 10 Web publishers that are participating in the Contributor experiment. Under it, people pay $1 to $3 per month and see a thank-you note on websites instead of an advertisement.
"When you visit a participating website, part of your contribution goes to the creators of that site," the Google Contributor site said. "The more you contribute, the more you support the websites you visit."
The thank-you note appears in place of an ad that Google otherwise would have supplied, spokeswoman Andrea Faville said. The 10 publishers participating in the experiment include photo-sharing site Imgur, news satire site The Onion, tech news site Mashable and slang-explanation site Urban Dictionary.
Google Contributor is an interesting idea for a company that's funded by ad revenue, but so far, it is only an experiment. Google offered a waiting-list form to let people sign up.