Google has announced a new way for online news publishers to gate access to their premium content, by requiring would-be readers to fill in a survey first.
The company will charge advertisers to distribute the survey and will share a portion of revenue -- currently negotiated case by case -- with the publisher.
For news readers, the survey tool will offer an alternative way to access premium content, without having to sign in or pay up, according to the Google News blog.
News publishers have criticized Google -- and some have taken it to court -- for profiting from their reporting work and giving away their headlines, photos or snippets of stories for free. Google has sought ways to share its advertising revenue with the publishers and, in some cases, has been forced to either license or remove content from its site.
"We have long been working with publishers on a variety of tools, including Fast Flip, Currents, First Click Free, and others. We are keen to see many different business models for high-quality content to flourish online, because that's good for our users," a Google spokesman explained in an email.
Visitors to sites carrying a Google survey are prompted by a market research question or asked to complete a specified action before they get access to an article or video. The publisher can also ask visitors to pay, register, sign in or share the content through a survey.
The surveys are only available in the U.S. for now. Advertisers and market researchers can target the whole population; segment by age, location and gender, or screen survey participants with an initial question. Targeting a U.S. audience costs $0.10 per answer and targeting more specified groups costs $0.50.
Google makes use of the DoubleClick cookie to infer age and gender, and uses IP address to approximate location and infer income and urban density via census data. "There is no personal identifying information collected about respondents," the spokesman added. "Companies that run surveys using this tool receive anonymous and aggregated response data as well as the ability to segment their results by inferred demographics."
Google recommends purchasing 1,500 answers to get the best results with an error margin of 3 to 5 percent. The minimum response count is set to 1,000 for a general population and 200 for custom audience surveys. Surveys can only be paid for using Google Wallet.
In test cases the surveys were used to determine the best packaging for a popcorn bag was according to the targeted group or research online shopping behavior. The results can be reviewed in an online dashboard and it is also possible to access and export the raw data, Google said.
Publishers get paid by the number of responses their site visitors provide and publishers have to maintain a 10 percent completion rate to continue serving the surveys. Surveys have to comply with Google program policies. Nudity, obscenity and adult material are prohibited, as well as hate speech and gambling and drugs related polls amongst others.
How much revenue goes into Google's pockets depends on the negotiating skills of the publisher. "Because it's still early, we negotiate with our partners on this. Publishers are paid based on the number of responses their site visitors provide," the spokesman said.
Setting up a survey is very similar to setting up AdSense, Google said. The survey appears below the by the publisher specified free content, on an article page it can appear after the first 200 words. This can be customized and there is a possibility to set a frequency cap.
Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org