The question of how to monetize content in an online media landscape, where so much is freely available, has seen the emergence of some innovative business models. Often one element of these is the option of paying to remove advertising, a defining feature of Spotify Premium, for example. Google, whose AdWords service reaches most corners of the internet, has unveiled a like-minded scheme called Contributor that gives web users the option of eliminating ads on participating websites for a monthly fee.
Google describes Contributor as an experiment in new ways of funding the internet. While there are media outlets that have introduced paywalls and memberships, and some with great success, advertising still largely funds the creation of online content.
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To have those too-good-to-be-true flight deals and wondrous BBQ utensil ads replaced with an inoffensive thank you message and plain pixel pattern, participants of the Contributor program will have the ability to set their own monthly fee of between US$1 and $3, based on the level of support they wish to provide to the participating websites they visit.
How much of this monthly fee is passed onto the publishers isn't exactly clear, but has been enough to pique the interest of certain outlets already. News site Mashable, viral image aggregator Imgur and everybody's favorite source of satire The Onion are among the first to sign on as early partners. Other publishers interested in taking part are encouraged to get in touch with Google, though we'd hazard a guess that growth of the program will largely hinge on the success of these first adopters.
Like its much-hyped email interface Inbox, Google has introduced Contributor on a trial basis. Users will need an invitation to enter Google's realm of ad-free web surfing, or can sign up to a waiting list and just endure those arresting banner ads for the time being.