Google excites publishers with a survey paywall

Content producers may start thanking Google for their income if the Google Survey paywalls work

Technology trends and news by Krystal Peak
March 30, 2012
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Google is working on partnering with marketing groups to create Google Consumer Surveys as an alternative to paywalls. This new approach to content conversion is an interesting one.

Since so many people have criticized Google as offering unlimited free content for users and reducing the likelihood that readers will want to pay for journalistic work, this seems to be a way for Google to get readers in the habit of giving something for all the information they access and it can help publishers make some money back and marketers get wide samples of information. 

So, while many people still aren't ready to hand over a monthly subscription fee to their favorite news sites, they might be willing to answer a few questions.

When enlisted, a reader would land on an article page and be prompted to answer a question or three to view the full text of the article. For every response sent to Google, publishers get $0.05.

The program has already launched with nearly 20 online publishers, including Pandora, AdWeek and the New York Daily News.

The survey responses are then collected by Google and sold to businesses seeking affordable market research (it is estimated that these responses are being completed at one-tenth the cost of professional surveys.)

Responses that target the general U.S. population will cost businesses $0.10 per response, with a minimum order of $100, according to the Google pricing page. Questions with an even more focuses target, by demographic, region or through screening questions, cost $0.50 per response. Lucky Brand Jeans, Timbuk2, and King Arthur Flour are already clients.

This new approach to monetizing the articles that people are directed to from Google all the time could be a win-win-win. Publishers get some money for content creation, marketers get targeted responses from Internet users and Google continues its strength in online advertising innovation.

Online users have become accustomed to a handing over a little information for free content and if this means that they can access, otherwise, premium content then they will likely see answering a few questions as a great value.

It may be too soon to predict if this will be become the new way to errect a paywall, but it definately opens up the realm of possiblities for those that seek out lots of information but don't want to hand over their credit card data every time they want to read.

We know that it has been a rocky, but (at times) promising road for the paywall. Earlier this month, The New York Times announced that its paywall structure was working so well that it was planning to cut the 20-free-articles-under-the-paywall limit in half. 

With 454,000 paid subscribers, NYT announced Tuesday that it will raise its paywall come April to try and absorb more subscribers thanks to the success it has been experiencing since the fee started one year ago.

With this change, NYT digital subscribers will continue to access to content on the website and across multiple digital platforms.

In the last quarter of 2011, circulation revenue was up 5% thanks to the digital-subscription readers signing up, but it wasn't enough to stop the overall decline in revenue -- a drop 2.8% for the quarter. Total revenues were $643.0 million, down from $661.7 million. Advertising revenues also decreased 7.1%.

And NYT had an operating profit of $106.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, down from $111.6 million in the same period of 2010. Ouch.

But the NYT is also trying to use its premium content in various mobile programs such as the Election 2012 app.

But in recent months, and after adding some more content and advertising campaigns, the NYT traffic has boosted back up to better than pre-paywall numbers, but not by a whole heck of a lot.

Since putting the paywall up has added some cash into its pockets, the test is to see if that paywall will hold in more cash with just a few more bricks to fortify the evolving business model.

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