Google is positioning itself at the vanguard of the industry's fightback against ad blockers, with the continued rollout of its paid-for content model as it tries to figure out how best to introduce ads to its joint industry initiative Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).
Google Contributor, which lets users see less ads in return for a monthly payment, is to be rolled out in the UK in the early part of 2016, having been in beta since earlier this year in the USA. It's arrival signals the online firm's attempt to lead the digital advertising ecosystem's efforts to tackle increased uptake of ad blockers among consumers.
Google Contributor is coming to Europe
Google Contributor works on millions of sites, multiple web browsers and and a number of devices, providing users with a comparatively ad-free experience in return for "a few dollars each month".
UK web users can currently sign up to the Google Contributor waiting list, which asks them to select the amount of money they would like to contribute to the scheme, with Google then redistributing the money collected from consumers among participating publishers.
In return, those sites receiving this funding will show fewer ads to participating consumers, with the website displaying a 'thank you message' instead of an ad. In terms of the levy asked of the consumer, the amount they are 'charged' is the equivalent to the amount a publisher would have received had there been present on the page.
The division of Google Contributor funds among publishers will be "usage based" according to Google's Scott Spencer, who further explained to The Drum that it was still "figuring out" the finer details of the scheme's financial model for publishers.
"From a publisher's perspective, you still get the equivalent compensation as if there was an ad there, and from a consumer perspective, I've just browsed the web as if I normally would," he added.
Spencer was unable to give a precise date when the initiative would launch in the UK, but he did add that it would take place in the first part of 2016, adding that this formed its efforts to devise a more sustainable advertising" ecosystem, especially in the wake of the rise of ad blockers.
Research published earlier this year from the IAB and Meetrics suggests that up to 15 per cent of Britons use such software, with numbers published by Sourcepoint (a company that has positioned itself as an anti-ad blocker) also suggesting that Europeans were twice as likely to block ads compared to their US counterparts.
Google's efforts to lead debate
In a message that echoed those of pro-ad blocking parties such as Eyeo and Shine Technologies, Google conceded that the recently documented upsurge in consumer take-up of ad blockers is phenomenon the industry must broach with the utmost respect for the user experience.
The rise of ad blockers is largely the result of bad consumer experiences, according to Google's Spencer, who is currently heading up its efforts to minimise the financial impact that ad blocking has on publishers.
However, he further described ad blockers as a "blunt instrument" that ultimately harms the wider content ecosystem, but he does acknowledge that their emergence is - either by design or by accident - leading to potentially new monetisation models.
"The data we have shows that bad experiences are driving users to use ad blockers, and the challenge is that it may not be a good site, it may just be one site a consumer goes to that has a bad experience, that drive them to use it," said Spencer.
Options over business models
"They [ad blockers] block all ads, and as we all know, good content needs to be compensated," he explained. "It is great that there are options over the business model... We think it's critical that there is a free and open option to access content where the content creator is compensated."
Currently, Google is conducting research to help the industry devise standards as to what does, and doesn't qualify an acceptable user experience, especially within its own eco-system.
"With AMP we acknowledged that the current experience was currently slower than most consumers may want, and that we've identified way to make content creation and distribution [on mobile] much faster," said Spencer.
"However, the advertising experience inside of that is still a challenge, as we need to understand still what is and isn't acceptable inside of that. That's going to require more research into to better understand that.
"Now we're looking to follow up to see what is the best ad experience to go with it," he added.
Last week, a report from the IAB US revealed that concerns over the spread of malicious software through "malvertising" was another chief reason for the upsurge in ad blocker usage, with the trade body's report - conducted in association with AppNexus, MediaMath and RocketFuel - estimating that this activity sucked as much as $781m in value out of the market.