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 ten 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 us. “We’re getting the publishers on board today. We’ll see not just how it works but also the public interest level.”
There are several alternatives to advertising today, ranging from member sites to Patreon and donation driven publications. Google Contributor is off the mark in its current form, because it’s based on Google’s ad platform. The purpose of Patreon, Flattr, or even just a donate button, is to get out of the advertisement game. Google is targeting, and monetizing, the same publications that are their (trusted, obviously) customers today. This’ll be dead in the water, unless they’ve got something groundbreaking up their sleeve.