Google AI content is now accessible as premium? ‘Not considering ad-free experience’ is what the search engine claims

Reports suggest Google is contemplating charging for premium AI features, raising questions about its integration with advertising. The move reflects challenges in balancing innovation with revenue in the tech giant's core products.

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Google is reportedly exploring the possibility of introducing paid “premium” features driven by artificial intelligence (AI), as per a report by the Financial Times. This marks a significant departure for the tech giant, which has traditionally offered its core products for free.

The Financial Times, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter, stated that Google is deliberating options like incorporating select AI-driven search features into its premium subscription services. While engineers are working on developing the necessary technology for such a service, executives have not yet made a decision regarding its launch.

Despite the potential introduction of premium AI features, Google intends to keep its ubiquitous search engine free for all users. Subscribers to premium services would still see ads alongside search results, according to the report.

A Google spokesperson clarified the company’s stance, stating, “We’re not working on or considering an ad-free search experience. As we’ve done many times before, we’ll continue to build new premium capabilities and services to enhance our subscription offerings across Google.”

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This move suggests that Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., is grappling with the challenge of integrating new AI technologies into its products without jeopardising its core advertising revenue. While the shares of Alphabet Inc. experienced a marginal decline in premarket trading following the news, the company appears to be exploring avenues to adapt to the evolving landscape of digital technology.

Since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022, Google has faced increased competition in the realm of AI-powered search. ChatGPT‘s ability to provide narrative responses to queries has prompted Google to rethink its traditional approach of displaying links to websites and accompanying advertisements.

Moreover, the emergence of new search startups offering subscription-based access to AI-driven search features and enhanced privacy protections has added further pressure on Google to innovate.

Last year, Google initiated testing of its AI-powered search service, which combines personalised narratives with links to websites and advertisements. However, the integration of features from this experimental service into the main search engine has been slow.

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In February, Google introduced a new paid tier to its consumer subscription service, Google One, offering access to its latest AI model, Gemini. Subscribers to Google One AI Premium gain access to advanced AI features, including the Gemini chatbot, across various Google services.

Utilising generative AI technology for search queries comes with substantial costs, according to insiders familiar with Google’s operations. The expense associated with running benchmark tests for AI-powered search products has contributed to the company’s cautious approach towards wider implementation.

Despite the positive feedback received during the initial stages, Google’s decision-making regarding the expansion of AI in search has been influenced by factors such as cost and technical considerations.

Charging for specific AI-driven search features could present Google with an opportunity to diversify its revenue streams without compromising its core advertising business, analysts suggest. Mandeep Singh, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, believes that such a move could potentially boost Alphabet’s subscription sales, akin to the success achieved by OpenAI’s subscription model.

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