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What is Scroll?
Scroll will offer ad-free access to major publisher sites like Salon, BuzzFeed News, Vox and Business insider for an introductory price of $2.49.
Scroll and User Experience
Scroll has been in development for quite a while offers readers a less cluttered, more private and faster news experience.
Former Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile said that he founded Scroll due to “frustration with the way news sites were becoming dragged down by ads and trackers”.
He tried to imagine:
“How would the internet have evolved if it didn’t have to rely on ads from the start?What would the economics look like?”
Users will pay $2.49 per month for the first six months after launch, then the price will go up to $4.99 per month. In return, Scroll will give them:
“A web that’s twice as fast, with no shadowy trackers, no ads, no pre-rolls.”
So, Scroll is an ad blocker? Yes and no. The end user experience is similar to what you’d get with an ad blocker, but there are a few key differences. For a start, users won’t run into any of the issues that often come when (partner) sites detect an ad blocker.
It’s also designed and optimized for mobile, the key channel for the 2020s. Once you’ve logged in on the scroll site, you can view all partner sites without ads or trackers. You can also read with the Scroll mobile app.
Scroll built some interesting features that allow a user to start reading a piece on desktop, pick up where they left off on mobile, and even switch to listening to rest through a text-to-audio function.
The speed is also key. Scroll proved that homepages and articles in their network launch markedly faster than their ad bearing equivalents.
Scroll and Publisher Revenue
As well as a better experience, users will also get what Haile called “good karma” from knowing that you are supporting the creators of the content you’re reading.
User subscription payments will be distributed to partner sites based on the sites they actually read and engage with.
Rather than all the subscription revenue being pooled into a single pot and shared out, users’ money will never go to sites they don’t visit, and they’ll even get a monthly report showing the sites that they’re supporting.
Interestingly, Scroll estimates that the average page view brings in only $0.011 in ad revenue, whereas scroll will bring in $0.016.
Scroll have already signed up around 300 partners.
A lot of household names are already on board, like: The Atlantic, The Verge, Slate, SB Nation, Life Hacker, The Onion and many more.
Scroll also have big plans for signing up a broad range of sites, representing diverse topics and viewpoints.
What does this mean for Publishers?
Haile expects Scroll to offer ancillary benefits to publishers beyond just the revenue share.
It seems logical that a less cluttered and faster experience could lead to higher engagement and consumption of articles.
This better experience should lead to deeper loyalty:
“If we look at the world, pretty much any industry, the things that people have tended to pay for in terms of a premium would be anything that either removes pain and frustration from their lives, or improves the user experience in some meaningful way beyond that level. And I’m really interested to see what’s possible there”
– Tony Haile
How will Scroll affect subscriptions?
Scroll is focused on readers who are willing to pay for a better news consumption experience, but maybe aren’t willing to commit to subscriptions, and certainly aren’t willing to subscribe to hundreds of publications to get an ad-free experience on their sites.
There is no reason why Scroll should cannibalize subscription revenues that we can see.
It won’t affect paywalls, gated content and community initiatives – and it’s entirely plausible that many users will subscribe to one or two of their favourite publications then use Scroll to have a better experience whilst browsing elsewhere.
If all goes to plan, Scroll will represent an additional revenue stream to publishers whilst leaving them free to pursue whatever membership or subscription strategy they are engaged with.
With Scroll, Sites can still make money from the readers who are not (yet) big enough fans to commit to a full blown subscription, so it should be win/win.
The Future of The Internet
Quoted in Nieman Lab, Haile said that him and his team build Scroll to:
“See if we can build a better internet”
It certainly seems that with users seeing less invasive ads and getting what they want faster and with less friction, the internet might start to feel a little more manageable.
Scroll is a unique approach to the problem of a cluttered internet, frustrated users and unreliable ad revenues. It has been designed by somebody who really understands these problems and has the resources to try to tackle them.
It offers users the benefits of ad blockers, but in a way that compensates publishers for their work at the same time.
This is certainly an interesting idea and a company to watch.
Check out these great pieces from Nieman Lab, What’s New in Publishing and Axios for more.