-Adario Strange, via PCMag.com
In recent years Google has taken its fair share of criticism from publishers as its Google News aggregation and AdWords micro-advertising have disrupted traditional publishing in major ways. But a new product quietly launched by Google this week might provide a powerful new business model for online publishing.
Google Consumer Surveys allows publishers to make money from running various micro-surveys on their sites. When a user visits a participating site, they will be presented with a survey before being allowed access to the content (text, video, or apps). Think of it as a soft paywall in which the user still gets the content for free, and doesn't need to register, but can't simply click the well-known "skip this ad" link to access the desired content. Once the short survey is filled out, the users gets her content for free, the publisher earns a small payment, and the company behind the survey gets the valuable market data it was looking for from a real, sometimes demographically specific person.
Large or small companies can target survey questions toward the general U.S. population for $0.10 per response (or $150.00 for 1,500 responses), or opt for demographic targeting at $0.50 per response ($750.00 for 1,500). Insights are grouped by demographics including income, location (U.S. Northeast, South, Midwest, West Coast), age (18-24, 25-34, 35-65+) and gender.
After setting up a survey, companies have the ability to view extremely detailed breakdowns of the survey answer data. Alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and pharmaceutical products are currently excluded from the program. Publishers already set up to use the survey tool with their content offerings include The Texas Tribune, the Star Tribune, and Adweek.
"The idea behind Google Consumer Surveys is to create a model that benefits everyone," said Google product manager Paul McDonald. "You get to keep enjoying your favorite online content, publishers have an additional option for making money from that content, and businesses have a new way of finding out what their customers want."
Upon further inspection, it does appear that Google may have finally discovered the Holy Grail for monetizing digital content in a way that benefits everyone. Few consumers have a problem filling out short, anonymous surveys, most online publishers have already learned that surveys are a fun way to engage visitors, particularly when it comes to niche sites, and large companies absolutely live and die on the vital data that market research provides regarding emerging trends, and current consumers tastes.