Google testing ad-free surfing for paying customers

Google Contributor splash screen.
Google Contributor splash screen.

Updated: Its Contributor program eliminates ads on participating sites

Google this week began testing a new program called Contributor  that will eliminate ads on participating sites for paying customers.

For Contributor subscribers, ads on sites such as the Onion, Mashable and Science Daily will be replaced by a thank-you message. Some ads will disappear altogether on mobile devices.

Google said it plans on sharing revenues from the program with the participating websites. So far only 10 websites have agreed to take part in Contributor. Users who visit the beta website are given the option to donate $1, $2 or $3. The payment is processed through the user’s Google account.

Publishers will get their cut through their Google advertising accounts when contributors visit their sites.

Users currently have to receive an invitation to become contributors, and there is already a waiting list.

The program is a typical example of Google experimenting with the market, according to Ash Kumar, CEO of mobile ad exchange TapSense, which he co-founded with former Google engineer Amit Manjhi.

"It’s classic Google," Kumar said. "They’re trying to experiment with a lot of things. They keep bringing in new products which may seem counterintuitive to their main business." He isn’t confident this particular experiment is going to be successful.

"It’s going to be tough to pull off," he said. "It’s hard to change behavior when people are getting content for free."

According to a report from Adobe and Page Fair, 144 million monthly ad blockers were used globally during Q2 2014, a 69 percent rise from the previous 12 months. The report found that Google Chrome saw the largest rise in ad blockers: a 96 percent increase to about 86 million monthly active users between Q2 2013 and Q2 2014.

Google Contributor comes less than a month after Google-owned YouTube announced it was considering a similar service.

This story was updated to include Ash Kumar's comments.

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