Is Google Contributor about to change the face of display advertising?

Is Google Contributor about to change the face of display advertising?

Dec 24 2015 | by SAM PREW

Google is currently in the process of launching Contributor, a brand new service that lets users pay monthly to see fewer ads on the sites they visit. The concept of Contributor is simple. Users can pick a monthly contribution level of £1.34 ($2), £3.35 ($5) or £6.70 ($10) and a portion of these funds are then used to pay for the sites they visit. In return, the user will see fewer ads on all participating websites. In choosing to contribute, users are essentially taking part in an ad auction. If the user’s bid wins, then no ad is shown, and either way, the website still receives payment from Google.

Contributor was originally introduced in November 2014 as an experiment and has been in beta throughout 2015 in the USA, however Google is planning to roll out the service in the UK early 2016. Coincidentally (or perhaps not) Apple’s recent iOS 9 update gives users the ability to block ads on a mobile browser. There are suggestions, therefore, that the timing of this recent push is too much of a coincidence and that Google want to compete with Apple’s recent announcement and lead the industry’s fight back against ad blocking.


Contributor appears to be Google’s attempt to fight back against the recent rise of adblocking software usage among consumers. Research published earlier this year from the IAB states that up to 15% of British internet users now use such software. According to Google’s Group Project Manager Scott Spencer, the reason for this increased usage of adblockers is as a result of bad consumer experiences with poor quality ads. Contributor is therefore Google’s attempt at finding a balance between keeping these users satisfied by showing fewer ads, whilst not harming website owners’ ad revenues in the process.


Instead of seeing an ad, the user will see an empty ad block with the message ‘Thank you for being a contributor’, which Google says is ‘a small reminder that you’re supporting the sites you visit’. Alternatively, users can choose a pattern or a custom URL to show instead of the ad, meaning that ads can essentially be replaced with anything of your choice, from your to-do list to photos of your pets!


It is important to point out that despite potentially paying up to £6.70 ($10) a month, the user will still see the majority of ads. According to Google’s contribution level structure, a user could pay £6.70 ($10) a month and still see ads on 75% of the pages they visit, which doesn’t seem to be the best value for money. This begs the question - why would a user would choose to pay monthly to only view fewer ads, when they can use free ad blocking software which removes all ads?

Well, seeing as many websites are funded through advertising, Google are hoping that users will choose to support the websites they visit and keep them sustainable.

From a user perspective, the key advantage of Contributor could be the improvements to mobile browsing. One of the major gripes about mobile browsing is that load times can be painfully slow. Display advertisements are notorious for using JavaScript to create animations and most mobile web browsers cannot load every piece of a website’s content simultaneously. Therefore the user ends up having to deal with excessive webpage load times because of an ad that they don’t really want to see. In this case, having the ‘Thank you for your contribution’ message load immediately and not delaying the user in accessing their web page is a much preferable option.

There’s also good news for website owners. Contributor means that website owners will no longer be facing revenue losses from visitors to their sites using ad blocking software, as Google’s aim is to convert these users to Contributor where website owners will receive a percentage of users Contributor fees. Google have not yet been specific about the exact share that website owners can expect to receive. However, Google will no doubt make sure that the program is profitable for both themselves and website owners, as this will be essential for the program to be a success.

At this early stage, it is difficult to determine just how popular Contributor will be. The idea is certainly an interesting one, and one that does have the potential to provide a win-win situation for both users and website owners. Time will tell whether UK users will be convinced when the program is rolled out early next year.

For more information and to join the waiting list, visit the Google Contributor site

Sam Prew

Is Google Contributor about to change the face of display advertising?