On Thursday Google sent emails to Google Contributor users with the news that they are getting a refund for any unused funds in the program. Also, users will now be getting refunds each month for any funds not spent during that month.
When Google announced Google Contributor in November 2014, it framed the program as a way for users to directly fund sites. But as I pointed out in July 2015, Contributor was really just a way for users to buy some of the ads they see when they browse the web.
A user can set a monthly fee to pay into the program, and Google will use the funds to replace some or all of the adverts the user sees with either cat pictures, blank spaces, or thank you notices.
Under the old rules, any unused funds at the end of the month are rolled over to the next month, but that is no longer true. Google has informed me today that we're getting refunds:
At the end of each billing month (except your free month) you'll get a refund for any money that has not been used toward the removal of ads.
You’ve also received a refund for the unused balance for all of the previous billing cycles during the life of your Contributor account.
I got back $5.31, which is great. Now I can end my participation in the program.
While this sounded like a great idea at first, in reality this program doesn't help either the user or the web publisher so much as it helps Google by pouring money into Google's ad network. The web publisher is not getting any more revenue from Google Contributor than they would from an advertiser, and users still lose screen real estate to adverts (and let's not forget security issues like malvertising).
The only winner with Google Contributor is Google. GC was less about helping sites than it was Google's bid to cash in on the growing acceptance of the idea that websites can ask visitors for money. It only serves Google's interests, and no one else.
If you want to provide financial support to your favorite websites, good for you but please don't join Google Contributor with that goal in mind.
Instead, everyone would be better off if you contributed to a site through Paypal, Patreon, or another channel (like buying a site's merchandize). The site will get a larger cut of the money, you'll know where your contributions are going, and best of all you can continue to protect yourself with an ad blocker.
P.S.You can support this site through Paypal.
image by christophe.benoit74