OPA Intelligence Reports

Posted in News on 04/09/2012 By Mark Glaser & Desiree Everts

Google’s pay wall alternative: take a survey

Google One Pass got a lot of attention when it launched last year, mainly because it appeared to be an answer to Apple’s subscription plan—but it didn’t result in the heavy defections by publishers that Google had been banking on. Will its latest effort to upend the traditional digital payment model be any different? Its new product, Google Consumer Surveys, helps publishers earn money on content via “microsurveys” from businesses that want to conduct inexpensive market research. Some industry watchers have gone so far as to call it a “pay wall alternative” and an innovative business model for digital publishing. As VentureBeat’s Jennifer Van Grove wrote, “Here’s why this strikes us as a crafty idea: Google isn’t selling a full-service market research service, but instead a hybrid of the cheap, do-it-yourself online survey products and the expensive, hands-on approach offered by a traditional firm.” PC Magazine’s Adario Strange agreed, saying that Google “may have finally discovered the Holy Grail for monetizing digital content in a way that benefits everyone.”

Google has signed up around 20 publishers so far, including Adweek, the New York Daily News and the Texas Tribune. But whether it can appeal to a broader range of publishers, and in a faster fashion than Google One Pass, remains to be seen. The “pay wall alternative” comes as Press+ recently announced it has a whopping 323 publications using its pay wall service. The company, which helps publishers build and operate pay walls, has undoubtedly seen incredible growth. “One year ago, 24 publishers had launched with Press+, but now it is becoming the rule and no longer the exception for publishers to charge for access online,” the company said in a release. But even as pay walls pick up steam, many are hoping that publishers can find a viable alternative like Google Consumer Surveys. David Cohn, founder of Spot.Us, noted that the survey model is one that Spot.Us has already been using for some time. “I hope upon hopes that this is a concept whose time has come. Especially in light of the ‘year of the pay wall,’” he wrote. “Finding an economic alternative to a hard pay wall is a good thing.”