Being an online publisher is hard to begin with. Being at the mercy of search traffic, fluctuations in Ad prices, and constantly searching to find new topics to write about can be challenging. Convincing a landlord that your income is stable, because your rent comes from a huge dependable company like Google can help with that. But what happens when Google fails to pay?
Google has been attempting to roll out a new "prettier" dashboard for AdSense, and it doesn’t appear that the transition has been going smoothly. Over the last 2 months Google has had pretty significant issues related to payment processing in AdSense. First they flagged a few thousand accounts as "ON HOLD" when they weren’t and then they failed to pay out earnings for September.
While display issues are annoying, failing to pay online publishers who earn revenue from the ads that appear on their pages, or along side their content on YouTube is putting quite a damper on publishers around the web. Many of the publishers live pretty close to pay check to pay check, and their earnings are not "pure profit", hosting bills, ads they purchase, production costs all have to be paid out of those earnings, so when they are late they risk not only being late on rent, but on hosting.
Several of the publishers who haven’t been paid pointed out that their landlords can often be forgiving when what they view as an "employer" doesn’t make pay roll and a check is late, but hosting providers are rarely so forgiving. While you can live in a card board box, if your servers go dark you won’t get next months rent either.
AdSense publishers aren’t employees though. They aren’t even contractors. The payments are for placement in the website’s inventory. So there won’t be a union uprising. No picket lines, and as of writing this I couldn’t even find press coverage. The Geographically diverse group of unpaid publishers range from Albany to Zurich and most have never met each other.
If I had not been contacted by two clients who buy services from me, I don’t think I would have noticed that my check was late. While I am still earning money from AdSense, the last time AdSense had issues I decided I would diversify my revenue sources. Microsoft PubCenter now is my primary ad provider, and while they don’t always match the earning potential of Google, they provide a phone number I can call and talk to a real human. Microsoft also sends a confirmation with every email you send them and typically follow up with in the hour.
Google’s AdSense on the other hand only offers support through their support forum, and after 96 hours the only response to email requests for support or status update was an automated response thanking me for making support aware of the issue.
For Google the issues related to Google Affiliate Network, and Western Union payments that occurred this month may just be bugs. As an engineer or Tech Support Rep, often the bugs users complain about are just annoyances. Nothing to lose sleep over.
I personally don’t have that much skin in the game, I will be fine. But I know many of my clients are in rough shape, and if they don’t get have money in their account by the 5th of the month when rent is becomes "late" many could be in very bad shape.
Most Google publishers don’t have the dependable income stream that comes with working at Google. Many of my clients you could say live more stretched than Pay Check to Pay Check. They stretch the payments on Hosting, Rent, and Utilities. Quite a few of my clients live for the boom in ad prices that comes in October, November, and December when they make the majority of their money.
Several people told me they were unwilling to speak up about their issues because they were scared Google would drop them from AdSense, "and then they’d really be screwed" (they used a word much more colorful than screwed). I tried to get a few blog and search press organizations to write about the story. The response was "we can’t afford to piss Google Off". I am of the opinion maybe Google does need to be pissed off. They need to have some skin in the game, because at 5pm today (Tuesday November 2nd) they are going to be late enough that a lot of people won’t have their rent until the 7th. Some of those people will get a nasty mark on their credit, many will have very real fees.
Jim Oaks provided the following email from "Chris" at AdSense support:
"Hello Jim, Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, I do not yet have a timeline for you. I hope we will be able to make payments before the next payment cycle, but I cannot guarantee that at this time. Again, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, and wish I had better info for you at this time. Sincerely, Chris AdSense Support The Google AdSense Team"
Update as of 4pm PST November 1:
We’re currently experiencing a few issues that affect the displaying of earnings and payments for some publishers. Our engineers are working right now to fix these issues ASAP. Here are the details:
ISSUE #1: September earnings incorrectly showing as $0 on Payments page.
For a number of publishers, finalized September earnings are displaying as $0. It appears that this is a syncing issue between our payment system and the frontend, so rest assured that your earnings were correctly calculated and will be paid out as usual. Our team is actively investigating this issue, and we will provide an update as soon as we can. No action is required if your account is affected by this issue.
For a small number of publishers with this error, the October ‘Payment issued’ line item is also not displaying. Publishers with this problem will be paid as usual and according to the normal schedule. We understand that publishers who use Western Union as their form of payment will be unable to pick up their payments without the corresponding MTCN numbers. If the problem is not resolved in the next few days, we will email your MTCN numbers individually. We apologize for the inconvenience and will post an update as soon as we have found a solution to this problem.
ISSUE #2: For Google Affiliate Network publishers: September earnings incorrectly showing as $0 on Payments page and October payment not issued.
Some Google Affiliate Network (GAN) publishers will notice that their earnings for September are not displaying and that their October payments were not sent. We have accurate records of your earnings but were unable to send out payments in our normal payment cycle. We have identified the problem and will issue your payments as soon as we solve the issue.
This same message will be posted to the Known Issues page shortly. We will update the Known Issues page and this thread as soon as we have more news to share. Thanks for your patience in the meantime as we work towards a resolution, and sorry for the inconvenience.