Many outlets today are discussing Google’s new Consumer Survey feature – a pay for content model that will essentially provide users access to premium content if they answer a few questions about a product or its brand.

I read a number of pieces about it, but was drawn to the one penned by Megan Garber of The Atlantic. In it, she circumvents the notion that this is just another paywall or pop up survey, and instead positions it as a more collaborative exchange: you provide information to receive information.  So, to learn what you want from, say, The New York Times, you have to allow the New York Times to learn what it wants to know from you (or, more specifically, what its advertisers want to know about you).

The debates over Big Data security aside, I agree with this approach.  It allows brands to spend their research dollars to engage directly with consumers, to provide them a benefit in exchange for something they will enjoy. Yet it’s not what it could be.  Why can’t brands be a part of what the consumer seeks, and not just the gatekeeper to it?

Well, the short answer is it’s really, really hard to do in the online space, but smart people are working on it.  An alternative answer? Explore the possibilities of embedding data collection into a physical experience.  RFID wristbands tracking likes, text to screen games collecting phone numbers, environments that respond to who you are – these are the new possibilities of the physical world.

What do you think?  Take a glimpse at Google’s system here: