Google’s new Contributor: great for bloggers, bad for advertisers?

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There’s a new offering from the Googleplex that appears small but could be seismic, released without a lot of fanfare. It’s a new way for sites to generate revenue called Google Contributor. What we know so far:

What is it? It’s a type of distributed subscription model Google is calling crowdfunding (though it is not in fact crowdfunding; it’s called this for reasons we’ll guess in a moment). By participating in Contributor even the smallest sites now could have a non-advertising revenue model. Site visitors can pay a small amount to go adfree and a portion (based on visits) goes to the site itself. It’s a roundabout way to get to a direct paid content model, but that’s essentially what it is.

How does it work? The economics are not detailed yet. Reportedly contributors will pay between $1-3 a month, which will be distributed based on visits. No word on Google’s cut.

Will this increase a blog’s earning power? Possibly, although it’s at least partially based on traffic. Sites that get small cheques from AdSense will probably get small cheques from Contributor. But it’s exciting to see Google experiment with a potentially more flexible and direct way for bloggers and other site owners to generate income.

Why is it a potentially big deal? Advertisers will hate it; it cuts them out. The Google messaging calls it crowdfunding, but it’s really not. It’s a direct payment method with flexibility and scale and without transparency; similar to ApplePay, launched by a company not traditionally in the B2B payments space. Interesting trend.

Why the crowdfunding positioning and so little fanfare? Google will probably be getting some tough calls from its media partners. It’s a small pilot, but if it is successful, it could start to eat into advertising, or large portions of it.

Join the Google Contributor waitlist. The Verge take. GigaOm calls it a crowdfunding tool for publishers. Wired says: makes sense, especially given perpetual ad griping.

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