Yesterday I wrote about the general availability of Google Contributor, a service through which consumers can choose to be billed an amount between $2-10 on a recurring monthly basis in exchange for seeing less display advertisements around the web.
Contributor is an interesting service that I likened to the Patreon and Kickstarter crowdfunding platforms, but that could make the web browsing experience a little less frustrating. Here’s how I concluded that post:
I still believe this aspect to be true. As someone with experience in web development myself and who advocates for the maturity and flexibility of the web versus mobile on a regular basis, it’s always frustrating when I come across a website using those incredibly intrusive interstitial ads you have to click away to get to what you wanted to see, or ads that automatically start playing audio. Google gets to hedge a bit, too, by providing a potential replacement to its own breadwinning advertisement business. The problem, though, is that Contributor is like Kickstarter and Patreon in one way and unlike them in the most important way. While you are technically paying out of your own pocket to fund content creators, you aren’t paying any one creator directly for the work you like.
Google promotes Contributor both as a way to reduce the amount of ads you see across the web and “fund the people who create the sites you enjoy.” But you only see between 5 and 50% less ads depending on how much you choose to contribute, and choosing what percentage of your contribution goes to whom requires entering advanced settings. Vague ad reduction masked as do-gooding? An inefficient way through which to fund your favorite creators? Quite possibly both.
If Adblock Plus teaches us anything it’s that consumers have no moral qualms about bypassing ads and paying nothing — save for the few moments it takes to install the plugin — to do it. But consumers, people, love nothing more than a good story and the human connection, and with that has come the rise of these other crowdfunding platforms giving creators the opportunity to tell their stories in an intimate matter through photos, videos, essays, and more, and actually touch people enough to convince them to make a direct contribution to see the continued development of work they appreciate. And the over half a billion in donations that Kickstarter projects received last year aside, there are some really promising and inspiring anecdotes out there.
Hank Green of the Vlogbrother’s YouTube channel and co-creator of popular educational web series’ CrashCourse and SciShow had this to say last week about crowdfunding efforts on Patreon for the two shows during a Q&A with his brother at the VidCon convention in Anaheim, CA (of which he is also a co-creator):
So the crazy thing is that with just around 2 percent of regular viewers of CrashCourse and SciShow choosing to support the show, it’s possible for the other 98% of people who can’t afford to do that to see it for free, and makes it possible for us to expand [through other shows].
I’ll give Google some leeway as the Contributor website calls it an “experiment” in additional ways to fund the web, but I don’t see this one panning out too well. People may have a new opportunity to pay to see less ads, but we already know that’s not what it’ll take for them to do it.