I signed up as a Contributor after writing about Google Contributor two months ago. In short, Google Contributor is a subscription service where users sign up to automatically bid for and hopefully outbid bad internet ads and instead pay websites directly by participating in the ad auctions. Websites get a higher price for their ads and their paying visitors now see less bad ads.
Google Contributor has a few modes you can choose from for what to display in the advertisement spots you win in the auctions. You can either hide ads entirely, display some random geometric shapes, see cute cat pictures, or insert your custom URL. I initially choose to hide the ads, but after about three days I changed it to display cat pictures instead. I thought it would be better to see the ads and be aware of the effects of my subscription than to just put everything out of mind. In hindsight, that was a good decision.
Since signing up with Google contributor I’ve become more aware of ads on the web, and it has made me change my browsing habits. I’ve always known websites earn money from me seeing the ads, but I’ve never before paid these websites directly out of my own pocket. Google contributor has changed that and it has made me much more skeptical about “just clicking and seeing what a website has to offer”. I’ve become a much more critical link-clicker as I don’t want my money going to bad actors in the industry. Three billions of websites with auto-generated or clickbaity worthless “articles” or slideshows. I must admit that sometimes I got distracted and interacted with some of these websites in the past. Now I avoid them like the plague as I can now end up paying money and not just losing some time out of my day.
This change has made me less distracted and I feel much more productive than I did before signing up. I spend less time on the news and open fewer articles I don’t intend to read. It wasn’t at all an outcome I’d expected from registering with Google Contributor, but paying a few dollars for the web every month certainly has changed me more than the dollar value on the monthly bill would suggest.
At my current payment level, I should see roughly 20 % fewer ads in a month. I’ve got no way of verifying that number nor any inkling about its validity. As someone who spends hours online every day, I’d be surprised if it had as much effect as 20 %. Others who don’t spend as much time on the web as I do would probably get a higher perceived value from their Contributor subscription. I do see a lot of cats as I browse the web, but I also see a lot of ads so it’s very hard to estimate my CTA (cats-to-ads) ratio. I kind of wished the Contributor Dashboard would tell me how big of a percentage of ads had been removed as this percentage is the number the subscription service use for marketing purposes.
Google contributor is still only available to users with a credit card issued in the United States. I’m kind of surprised that this limitation hasn’t been lifted yet. The geographical blocking seems to have been put in place for Google to avoid having to deal with local sales tax and setting different prices around the world. I hope they’ll allow anyone to register soon, as Contributor is only viable as a service for Google, publishers, and even users if it attracts enough subscribers.