Google has quietly launched new tools enabling web publishers to monetize their web audiences via subscriptions and contributions.
The online ad giant said its new Reader Revenue Manager product – accessible from within the existing Google Publisher Center – is designed to help publishers and creators easily paywall their content and charge for access to it on a subscription basis. The new offering is essentially an extension and repackaging of its existing “Subscribe with Google” technology, but it could enable Google to compete more directly with other subscription monetization tools and subscription-based creator platforms such as Substack.
“Reader Revenue Manager provides publisher solutions to deepen audience engagement and convert subscribers or contributors… Whether you already have a paywall or are just starting your reader revenue business, we have a solution to help you grow your publication,” Google’s marketing materials state.
With RRM, publishers can add snippets of Google code to their sites, specify subscription pricing, and begin accepting subscriptions or contributions quickly. Google passes the resulting revenue on to publishers, less a 5% fee, and subscribers are automatically signed in with their Google accounts on websites they’ve subscribed to. Publishers also have direct access to subscribers’ opted-in contact information in order to “own the relationship” with subscribers, the company said.
Google also implied content from publishers using RRM could appear more prominently across its “surfaces”, which could include Google News, Discover and other Google features that surface publisher content. The product “was designed for publishers to help increase engagement by highlighting their content to readers during contextually relevant moments in Google products,” according to a tweet by Google’s News Initiative.
Publishers using RRM also have access to a new Subscribed Content report in Google’s search console, which is designed to help publishers understand how traffic from Google search queries is translating into subscriber revenue and to ensure any paywalled content is being recognized by Google correctly.
Google has been stepping up its focus on subscription models in recent years, most notably via its Google News Initiative and related programs. It remains to be seen how that focus and investment will evolve given Google’s overwhelming reliance on advertising revenue. But, as it becomes clear that a mix of revenue streams is the most effective and sustainable way to support high-quality content and journalism, Google’s interest in subscription-based revenue models and tools may not be temporary.