Google Consumer Surveys (GCS)

Bryan Chester | Strategic communications manager, Columbia Missourian, Columbia, Missouri | Circulation size: 6,000 daily

Describe your success

Columbia Missourian

Google Consumer Surveys are a paywall alternative/supplement provided by Google. In addition to our membership model, GCS is on pace to provide an additional 15 to 20 percent in advertising revenue the first year. There's been no backlash from readers, outside a single negative comment from a reader who has a history of critical commenting regardless of the topic.

Here's a quick rundown of how pricing structure for GCS works: The market research firms pay Google $0.10 for each completed survey question; the publisher receives $0.05 from Google, and Google keeps the other $0.05. The number of survey questions varies from one to two before gaining access to the content, and each question typically takes between 5 to 8 seconds to answer. Occasionally the user has the opportunity to respond to five to nine additional questions in order to receive two days of survey-free access. We have no say over the types of questions administered. 

GCS is a viable option for everyone, however it may not be as significant a revenue stream at larger publishers.  Google caps publisher revenue at $500,000 annually. The pro’s for The Missourian were increased access for the student body as well as the  public; we were able to keep our membership model still intact and use GCS as a supplement; our paywall had removed us from Google search crawlers and by implementing GCS we were once again searchable; and of course a new revenue stream with zero overhead.  The only major con we were concerned about was survey inventory and future viability.  Should Google or the market research firms they work with decide to get out of this business, we would then need to re-assess our digital model.  In terms of how the Missourian decided to try GCS, we saw it as a very low risk, high reward concept.  Even considering the potential discontinuing of the service, it still afforded us the opportunity to monetize our content in the interim.  

What was the measure of your success?

Our success is based two things. First, we have savings of approximately $20,000 in vendor costs associated with our app suite. Secondly, we project an increase of 15 to 20 percent in advertising revenue.

Concerning the app suite, two years ago, we were tasked with implementing a digital strategy conceived by a consultant named Guy Tasaka. Tasaka’s strategy was to make all content available for the first 24 hours it was published, and then move it behind the membership wall. The idea was that our “evergreen” material and archived stories would hold enough value that users would not mind spending $5.95/month for digital access ($7.95/month for print digital). In addition to archived access, members would receive access to our digital app suite available on IOS or Android devices. The costs associated with maintaining these apps and paywall totaled roughly $3,000 per month plus an initial lump sum payment up front. 

What impact did your success have on your organization?

The impact has been very positive. It has allowed sales reps to make department goals more regularly. At The Missourian, we have a commission structure based around individual sales goals and department sales goals.  If the individual rep makes their goal, they receive a flat bonus. If the department makes its overall goal, the reps receive another flat bonus. Because we count GCS revenue under house advertising, those monies go towards the department goal. 

What impact did your success have on your community?

Very positive as well. Our website essentially became free to the public, as it was before our first attempt at a paywall, thus driving up pageviews and unique user data points.

What resources were required to achieve your success?

It took a partnership and coding support from Google as well as our own IT department in order to implement GCS and our membership model. Our IT department worked alongside Google during the coding of our survey model.  Since we were using GCS in addition to memberships, it took a little more time than if we had just gone from an open website to one using GCS.  In general the implementation is no more than adding a line of code to our existing website, and Google is very willing to provide tech support to those in need. 

How long did it take you from idea to implementation?

Three months.

How long did it take you from implementation to break even or success?

We started seeing significant revenue within the first month.

If your success is ongoing or continuing, what tweaks or adjustments are you making or planning going forward?

I would like to add GCS to our magazine website as well. The integration is seamless and the barrier to entry is much less than that of a traditional metered paywall.

Who do I contact to investigate GCS?

Our Google sales rep for the service was Matt Villacarte. His contact information is as follows:

Matt Villacarte, Strategic Partner Development Manager
Google Consumer Surveys
(650) 214-1162

Supplementary materials


Bryan Chester's presentation from the event.

Missourian story

A story on the Columbia Missourian as it would normally appear.

Missourian story with GCS

The same story with Google Customer Survey.

GCS final

The final layout of the GCS on the Missourian site.

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Bryan Chester's photo
A native of Chicago, Bryan Chester has been with The Columbia Missourian for six-and-a-half years. An alumnus of the University of Missouri, he holds bachelor’s degrees in business-marketing and sociology, as well as a master’s degree in higher education administration.