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Like it or not, the Internet today is largely funded by advertising. In exchange for free content, millions of websites run advertising campaigns to help pay the bills and keep their unique content flowing. One popular alternative is the paywall although I'd venture a guess that people loathe it even more than the ad-supported model.
Google is now experimenting with a new way to fund the web that eliminates ads on your favorite websites if you're willing to cough up a small monthly donation. It's called Contributor and specifically, it would let users choose to donate $1, $2 or $3 each month in exchange for getting rid of all Google-served ads on participating websites.
Contributors will either see a personal thank-you message or a pixel pattern where ads would normally be placed.
Donations are handled through a user's Google account and would partially go to the participating sites that a user visits (Google will keep a cut, naturally). Publishers will also receive payments through their Google advertising accounts.
Google Contributor is launching with 10 publishing partners initially and will be invite-only for the time being. Early partners include Mashable, Urban Dictionary, Imgur and the Onion among others.
It's worth reiterating that donations will only remove Google-served ads; any other third-party advertising that a site has in place will still be shown.
While not an entirely new concept among popular websites, Contributor is a surprising move on Google's part when you consider much of the company's revenue is derived from advertising. Reducing ad impressions seems like risky business which is perhaps why they're starting out small.
I imagine some of you are asking why anyone would bother with Contributor when free ad-block programs can essentially pull off the same thing. The way I see it, it's similar to why people pay for services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Spotify, Rhapsody, and so on. That content can also be found on the web free of charge and while I'm sure most prefer the convenience they afford, I'm sure there are at least some that pay to support the work of the actors and artists they love.