BlogArtificial IntelligenceGenerative AIGoogle looking at AI-powered Search Paywall option, claims report

Google looking at AI-powered Search Paywall option, claims report

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According to recent article from the FT, Google is contemplating the introduction of a paywall for certain functionalities within its AI-powered search offering. This move, if implemented, could have significant ramifications for the way users interact with search engines and retrieve information online.

What is Google AI-powered Search?

A seamless, ironically more human, search experience

Imagine a future where you can have a conversation with Google, just like you would with a helpful and knowledgeable assistant. This is the essence of AI-powered search. 

Instead of being limited to typing in keywords, you could ask Google complex questions in natural language. AI-powered search would then use its understanding of language and the vast amount of information available online to provide you with a comprehensive and informative answer. It might not just give you links to websites, but also synthesize information from various sources, incorporate pictures, videos, or even maps, and even suggest further exploration tailored to your specific interests. This could fundamentally transform the way search engines understand and address user intent.

Why is Google allegedly looking at introducing a paywall for AI-powered Search?

Could it help Google recoup lost advertising revenue?

Google’s bread and butter has been advertising. But with AI chatbots potentially changing how we search, Google might see fewer clicks on links. A paywall for exclusive AI features could be a way to recoup those potential losses and fund further development. At this stage, Google hasn’t released any information to support this theory. However, with the development of AI-powered Search, there is no doubt that they need to find the balance between serving the needs of their users whilst protecting ad revenue by creating new opportunities for advertisers. 

Chat-GPT offers a paywall. Why not Google?

Competitors in this space offer paywalls to get benefits such as upgraded models, more tokens, or deeper integrations. Could Google offer something similar for its users? More importantly, would users even pay for something they have been so used to having for free?

Could Google offer premium access and integrations to more of its products and services?

By offering these kinds of integrations, Google could create a powerful ecosystem where users seamlessly leverage AI-powered search across their workflow, potentially making the paywall more appealing for users who rely heavily on these tools. It would also incentivize users to subscribe to Google Workspace tiers that include these premium features.

Are there options for monetization beyond subscriptions?

While subscriptions might be the primary source of income, Google could explore other monetization options:

  • They could offer limited pay-per-use options for specific features within the AI search platform.
  • Additionally, for businesses, they could provide access to anonymized user search trends and insights gleaned from AI-powered searches, providing valuable datasets.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re a paid search advertiser, this news might not affect you directly in the short term. However, it’s worth keeping a close eye on how AI-powered search evolves. 

Google will always have a free version with ads

Google have been clear that even if they were looking at a paywall option, its traditional search engine would remain free of charge. This also means that ads would continue to appear alongside search results even for subscribers. 

Could we see less clicks through to websites as a result of AI-powered Search? This could affect SEO and PPC

It’s obviously a concern. In the long run, it could significantly change user behavior and the way people search for information. For instance, if AI-powered search becomes the go-to method for complex queries or research, users might be less reliant on clicking through traditional ad results. This could mean that paid search advertisers would need to adapt their strategies to target users within the AI-powered search platform itself. Conversely, if Google’s paywall proves to be unpopular, it could drive more users towards free ad-supported search, potentially benefiting paid search advertisers in the long run. However, reports seem to suggest that ads will appear even in a paywall version of Search. 

Whether Google implements a paywall for AI search features remains to be seen. Google will likely introduce AI features gradually, making users comfortable with the new functionalities before potentially placing some behind a paywall.

But one thing’s clear: search is evolving. While the core experience might stay free, how we interact with search and the kind of answers we get could be transformed by AI.

Dan Roberts
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