One of the easiest and most popular ways to monetize websites is with ads. Over the past few years, however, as websites wanted (and needed) more and more revenue, increasing both the number and the visibility of ads was the easiest way to accomplish this.
If you’ve browsed around the internet over the past few months (especially without an ad-blocker), you’ve probably seen some of the worst offenders of these extra-invasive ads. Full screen ads or the ones with video (or even worse, sound) that you can’t easily bypass or stop. These intrusive and bandwidth-sucking ads have led to the proliferation of ad-blocking software for internet browsers and phones, in an attempt to not be bombarded by a constant barrage of ads when you’re simply checking the weather or the news.
Even Apple has allowed ad-blocking software to function on the iPhone and iPad to block ads on mobile Safari – something which Android, (which is owned by Google – which makes a significant amount of money from ads) doesn’t allow unless you root the phone to install and use ad-blocking software. This expansion of ad-blocking has some potentially damaging ramifications for the future of the internet.
The Ad-Blocker Problem
Ad-blockers are there own problem, of course. Internet bandwidth, domain registration, and hosting all cost money, and ad blockers used for the most annoying sites also deprive the more responsible websites of revenue. If the constant expansion of ad blockers isn’t slowed down or reversed, ultimately this will result in even more obtrusive ads (or websites will have to resort to less-wholesome ways of generating revenue) and even less actual, quality content – since websites will have to send out tens or hundreds of “click-bait” headlines per day, and spread a single two- to four- paragraph story over 5 or 10 pages, just to get more attempt to get more clicks and ad views!
Of course, in a (semi-)perfect world, users of websites which have responsible and non-invasive ad properties would “whitelist” or allow ads, on those sites that they like and use regularly. But it doesn’t take a lot of examination to find that most people, after turning on an ad-blocker, don’t even consider (or know how to) turning it off for specific sites.
Google has a big stake in the ad game, since they get quite a bit of revenue from ads. As such, they’ve been doing a couple of things to try and get people moving away from seeing (and expecting) ads, and still allowing people to support the content they like and use. These two programs are Google Contributor and Youtube Red.
Google Contributor – Donate to the Sites YOU Use
The Google Contributor program is a program that allows website users to pick a monthly amount ($2, $5, or $10) in exchange for seeing fewer ads, and a portion of that money goes to all the sites you visit that are enrolled in the Google Contributor Program.
I think this is a pretty inventive idea – it’s more cost effective for users than donating to every single website they regularly use (which no one would do) and it also moves toward fewer ads on websites. I especially like that this program automatically works on all sites that run Google’s Adsense (unless the webmaster disables it), so a small contribution can actually knock out a sizable portion of your daily ad-viewing.
According to the information on the Contributor Sign-up Page, a $2/month donation results in 5-15% fewer ads, a $5/month donation results in 15-25% fewer ads, and a $10/month donation results in 25-50% reduction in ads viewed. One small (but pretty neat) feature is that you are able to select what you’d like to see in the now-empty ad’s place. You can select from essentially transparent or invisible boxes, pictures of kittens, geometric shapes and colors, or you could get more creative and use your own pictures (or even something like a to-do list!).
I’ve got a link on the right sidebar, if Contributor interests you, or you can click on this link.
Youtube Red – Ad-free Videos and Quite a Bit More
Youtube Red – which is a subscription-based ($10/month) version of Youtube which gets rid of ads, and also allows both the downloading of videos and background playback on mobile devices – is another way to reduce the number of ads you see while watching videos, while still supporting the content creators that you use the most.
A Youtube Red subscription also gives you full access to Google Play Music – which is like Google’s answer to Spotify – although it has some additional (very useful) features, such as the ability to upload your own music to the cloud to listen to anywhere, and lots of custom-made playlists for different moods, activities, or times of day.
For those people who watch a lot of Youtube videos, while the appeal of removing ads may be worth the cost, I actually think the included Google Play Music subscription is the most compelling feature. Full disclosure – I’ve had a Google Play Music (and Youtube Red) subscription since April of 2015 – and I use the music and the video features almost daily. The ability to upload your music to Google’s servers and then listen to it anywhere via the Google Play Music app or the website is awesome – plus the fact that Google’s music offerings are very similar to both Spotify and Apple Music – and really makes any gaps in Google’s library easily overcome.
Google Contributor and Youtube Red – The Challenge
The challenge, of course, will be getting users used to paying even a small amount for (good) content and information. I like the idea and direction of Google Contributor and Youtube Red – there is both a tangible benefit for the payer (fewer ads) and an incentive for the payee (better content, not additional ads) – but it will take time to see if people are willing to put there money where their mouth is, and support quality sites.