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Digiwatchdog » Advertising, Sustainability » Google saving news business one experiment at a time

Google saving news business one experiment at a time

Judged solely by the three stories we’ve published about Google–two on analytics and the other on the ‘standout’ search tag–it’s clear that the presentiments expressed in last year’s Atlantic cover story (that Google was trying to save the news biz) were right on target.

And it appears that Google’s efforts are far from over. On Friday Nieman Journalism Lab reported that Google is flirting with new ways for users to access content. They discovered that, when clicking on a link to the Texas Tribune‘s government employee salary database, they were asked to either become a subscriber to Tribune e-mail alerts or answer survey questions like “Which communication method do you use the most for having casual or social conversations with people you care about?”

Nieman called it “market-research-as-paywall.”

Google hasn’t made a formal announcement, but Nieman points out that clicking on the ‘learn more’ link brings you to a couple of paragraphs that elucidate the reasons for the survey. Essentially it streamlines market research–making it “faster, more accurate, and more affordable”–in a way that provides quick compensation for the website and information for another company.

It could also be part of Google’s One Pass system, which allows publishers to set pay models for accessing their content through the search giant.

One obvious hurtle here is the Spam Factor. I’m normally leery of sites that immediately ask me to fill out a survey. Google, knowing this, makes the interface as clean as possible. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if research shows a majority of users hit the back button and the Tribune loses potential readers.

When I tried to visit the salary database through Google, I was asked if I agreed with the following: “Private label juice is a better deal for your money.” I clicked “I don’t know, show me another question.” So they did. This time they asked, “Are you or someone in your household allergic to almonds?”


What do you think? Would surveys like this scare you away?

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