HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Quartz is trying to make its articles stickier on smartphones with a new “Read Full Story” button
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Oct. 31, 2011, 9:30 a.m.

How Google is quietly experimenting in new ways for readers to access publishers’ content

The company is partnering with a number of publishers to use market surveys as a way for readers to reach the news.

Google appears to be experimenting with a new paywall-esque content roadblock for publishers, and it’s not One Pass. For lack of a better name, let’s call it a “survey wall,” because instead of dollars the system asks readers a question before they can move on to continue reading what they like.

We stumbled on the survey wall while trying to access parts of the government employee salary database on the Texas Tribune. A first-timer accessing the site through Google (let’s say you search for “english teacher salary Brownsville ISD”) will be prompted to sign-up for Tribune email alerts (as well as sign in to the site), or answer a simple question like the one above. Other questions whether you’ve heard of Google Docs, what kinds of electronic equipment you have in your home, how many credit cards you own, or the holiday-appropriate “For Halloween, do you prefer to receive a trick or a treat when you knock on someone’s door?” A simple click on one of the provided answers and you’re through the gate; it’s market-research-as-paywall.

How do we know it’s the work of Google? A Tribune staffer redirected me to a Google spokesperson, who offered no further information but said in a statement: “Google regularly experiments, together with a variety of publisher partners, with new engagement and content presentation technologies. This is just one such experiment we’re running.”

We know Google is nothing if not persistent in making overtures to the news industry, from the “standout” tag in search, editor’s picks on Google News, and obviously One Pass. But at the moment there’s no indication how many sites are participating in the experiment or whether it’s part of any larger Google product.

Luckily, we do have some minor clues. Clicking on the “Learn more” link leads to a note saying data is collected and used under the terms of Google’s privacy policy. And here’s the closest thing to an explainer of what Google’s thinking of:

Answering the quick question here gives you near instant access to the page you want for free. You don’t have to pull out your wallet or sign in, companies gain insight into what people think and the publisher earns money as site visitors provide answers. Everyone wins.

It’s all part of a new product under development to make market research faster, more accurate and more affordable. If you’re interested in running questions of your own, contact us about becoming a trial partner.

It’s worth noting that one of the selling points of One Pass — as opposed to Apple’s in-app subscription model — is that Google gives publishers the right to collect and share user information for further marketing purposes. That model lets publishers use data about their users directly for marketing and advertising; this new approach seems to aim at compensating publishers directly for the data and shipping its value to others.

As news companies try to dive deeper into the world of paid content, they face the reality that the vast majority of their users online aren’t willing to pay one thin dime for their content. Advertising has long been a way to monetize their attention without a direct user payment; maybe market research will be its new peer. (You may remember Spot.Us launching an experiment in getting stories funded through user surveys rather than credit cards last year.)

Whether this is part of One Pass or some other product, publishers will likely welcome a way other than chasing CPM dollars to generate revenue from non-paying readers. Imagine a news site that offered both a full-blown digital subscription or a “free with surveys” option where readers use their time and data to ply access to the news. It would be the news equivalent of the Kindle With Special Offers.

POSTED     Oct. 31, 2011, 9:30 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Quartz is trying to make its articles stickier on smartphones with a new “Read Full Story” button
Grabbing an idea from The New York Times, the business site is trying something counterintuitive with mobile traffic — adding an extra hurdle that makes it easier to offer readers alternative options.
How a group of researchers tried to use social media data and algorithms to find breaking news
Using geotagged Instagram data, CityBeat tries — often unsuccessfully or belatedly — to find breaking news.
Pew study: When it comes to political news, Facebook has become local TV for millennials
For baby boomers, local TV is the top source for politics news. Millennials are getting it from their News Feeds.
What to read next
670
tweets
What happened when a college newspaper abandoned its website for Medium and Twitter
At Mt. San Antonio College, they’ve traded in print for distributed publishing, focusing on realtime reporting and distribution: “We’re speaking the language of our generation.”
596The Apple Watch will expose how little publishers know about their readers
Apple’s new wearable may or may not be a big hit. But either way, it’s a harbinger of a new class of truly personal devices whose users will demand customized experiences. News companies aren’t ready to provide them.
577The Upshot uses geolocation to push readers deeper into data
The New York Times story changes its text depending on where you’re reading it: “It’s a fine line between a smarter default and being creepy.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Bloomberg Businessweek
ProPublica
Houston Chronicle
St. Louis Globe-Democrat
Futurity
I-News
Texas Tribune
Austin American-Statesman
U.S. News & World Report
Chicago News Cooperative
Tumblr
The Globe and Mail