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Google tool offers choice over funding for online content

Publishers can offer internet users a choice over how their content should be paid for by using a new tool developed by Google.06 Jun 2017

Publishers that utilise 'Funding Choices' will be able to display ad-free content to internet users that pay for that experience. The tool enables the publishers to restrict the consumers' access to their content where they elect not to disable ad blocking software.

Funding Choices is already available to publishers based in North America, the UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. It will be accessible to publishers based in other countries later this year, Google said.

"As part of our efforts to maintain a sustainable web for everyone, we want to help publishers with good ad experiences get paid for their work," said Google senior vice president for ads and commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy in a company blog. "With Funding Choices, now in beta, publishers can show a customised message to visitors using an ad blocker, inviting them to either enable ads on their site, or pay for a pass that removes all ads on that site."

The use of ad blocking software has grown in popularity in recent times, prompting debate about the long-term viability for the business models of online publishers.

Last year, the then UK culture secretary John Whittingdale weighed in on the debate. He likened the risk posed to publishers from the growth in the use of ad blockers to the threat online copyright infringement posed to the film and music industry previously.

Whittingdale said that he was concerned that content and services consumers currently can access for free might disappear because of the move by some mobile phone companies and internet service providers to facilitate ad blocking

He also described ad-blocking companies that have taken steps to define "acceptable advertising" or that are "offering to white list providers in return for payment" as acting in a manner "akin to a modern day protection racket".

"If people don’t pay in some way for content, then that content will eventually no longer exist," Whittingdale said.

However, he said advertisers need to "be smarter" to make internet browsing less disrupted by adverts. He referenced pop-up ads and auto-play video and audio adverts as the types of ads that consumers find "intrusive".