Google Inc. announced an initiative Thursday that allows Web users to view pages without ads. Google Contributor asks readers to pay anywhere from $1 to $3 to view the pages.
Google is launching the service as a trial along with content partners such as Mashable, Imgur, the Onion and Urban Dictionary. Google Contributor is initially only available by invitation in the U.S., as the search giant tests the waters for a Web without ads.
Google’s revenue is based mostly on advertising, so the decision to take down its predominant source of income might seem like a risky proposition for the company. Contributions are handled through a Google user account, and the company pays publishers only when a paying contributor makes a visit, from which Google takes a cut.
This is not Google’s first experiment with offering publishers and content creators ways to monetize their readership outside of advertising. The company also offers Google Consumer Surveys, which ask readers to fill out a short survey before they can view a page. Google also has created a similar “tip jar” for YouTube channels that allows viewers to donate up to $500.
The majority of websites provide content online for free, but make money off of ads appearing on their pages. Several newspapers and other media companies require subscription fees, blocking their content from non-subscribers using “paywalls,” which then asks them to pony up. Google Contributor experiments with microtransactions as a possible better solution than paywalls and invasive advertising.