There’s a new kid on the advertising block that aims to solve problems for both publishers and advertisers. Google Consumer Surveys is a “soft” alternative to premium content paywalls and a low-cost way to perform market research. Early adopters include Adweek, the Star Tribune, Timbuk2 Bags and Lucky Brand Jeans.
Traditional paywalls look something like this:
Readers can access the teaser, but must subscribe or sign in to continue. Notice a competing call to action rests below – if you can’t convert a user, a secondary way to monetize is through advertising.
Google Consumer Surveys allows the reader to view paywalled content in exchange for a short survey.
Example questions include…
Despite apparent benefits for publishers and advertisers, are Google Consumer Surveys a good option for every business?
The Opportunity for Advertisers
Google Consumer Surveys are undoubtedly cost effective. Advertisers pay fixed prices of $0.10 per response ($0.50 for demographically qualified responses). Compared to research panels, brands can get solid data for hundreds instead of thousands of dollars, and according to Google, the data is closer to a true random sample than panels. Google also enables screen questions, such as “do you have a child under 2 years old?” while many panels cannot screen as specifically.
Making users consciously think about your brand also has higher impact on recall, as demonstrated by the Solve Media CAPTCHA.
To get the most value, advertisers should keep in mind a couple things:
1. Quality. The survey is incentivized. Are respondents providing thoughtless answers just to get their “carrot”? Presenting less alternatives (for example, choose between 2 responses instead of 5) are more likely to get accurate answers, as they are perceived as less difficult, and may produce a more "gut reaction" (authentic) response. Visual options have a similar effect.
2. Reliability. There’s a big difference between what people say they prefer or how they behave and what / how they really do. Ensure the types of questions you ask (including how you word them) are not better answered by A/B testing or other research methods.
Payoff for Publishers?
Content publishers stand to earn a few pennies per survey, which for large traffic sites can be substantial revenue. But consider:
1. Devalued content. What is the privilege of accessing premium content worth? Your subscription price may be $9.99/month, or $79/year, or $0.99 per access. The “soft paywall” whittles down the perceived value to an opinion, Like or Tweet – even for those who are willing to or have paid your subscription price.
Image credit: SEO Roundtable
2. Reduced long term revenue. Don’t assume a visitor who does not subscribe in order to view your content today will not subscribe tomorrow. In fact, the more times someone hits your paywall through search, social networks or other referrals, the more attractive accessing your content becomes. Making a few cents in the short term makes little cents long term if it’s thwarting your primary business goal.
3. Missed engagement opportunity. How much is the value of an email subscriber? A Twitter or Facebook follower? If it exceeds the payout from using Consumer Surveys, why not experiment granting one-time access in exchange for future engagement opportunities?
If your paywalled content abandonment rate is excessively high, first look at ways to optimize your offer and presentation. Max this out before looking for alternative ways to monetize.
Publishers that will benefit most from this option are those that use consumer surveys to monetize content that don't currently use a paywall. This low-friction, low-commitment "soft paywall" is an alternative to pre-roll and interstitial ads.
To attract more paywalled publishers, we may see the program move from a fixed-price to pay-per-survey model, where top-tier publishers command higher payouts.
More details on the program available at Google.