- The startup Scroll is planning to roll out a subscription product that will let people have ad free experiences on a number of top websites for $US5 per month.
- The company has signed up Gannett, The Atlantic, Slate, Business Insider and Fusion Media Group as partners.
- Investors include Axel Springer, News Corp and The New York Times.
Rather than fighting people who install ad blockers, a group of publishers are banding together to help people access their websites ad free, as long as they pay up.
The Atlantic, Slate, Gannett, MSNBC.com, Fusion Media Group and Business Insider have all signed on to participate in Scroll, a soon-to-launch digital subscription product that will allow people to surf multiple websites with no ads – for $US5 a month.
Scroll is the brainchild of Tony Haile, the former CEO of Chartbeat. The startup’s investors include Business Insider parent company Axel Springer, News Corp., The New York Times, and now Gannett, which is joining the venture as both a strategic investor and client.
Gannett ‘s vast list of publications includes USA Today as well as dozens of local newspapers such as the Indianapolis Star and the Detroit Free Press.
Haile been developing the product over the past year or so. Many in the digital ad industry speculated that he’d been working on some sort of universal payment tool for publishers. Instead, the idea behind Scroll is to find a way to cater to consumers who want to enjoy a faster, cleaner web, and are willing to pay for that experience.
And the business side, the key for Scroll is to satisfy the needs of a wide range of media companies large and small, Haile said.
Scroll promises partners that it will pay them more money per consumer than they currently make from the average visitor to their website from advertising.
“We tried to focus on both user experience and a revenue model,” he said. “The hope was, ‘Can we find a business model we’re proud of?’ and ‘Can we find something that doesn’t make you want to stab your eyes out when you visit websites?'”
Scroll arrives at a time when the use of ad blocking software has been on the rise, particularly in Europe. The industry has been taking a number of measures to clean up the glut of ads on most websites and mobile apps, including the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s LEAN initiative (Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, and Non-invasive ads) and the Coalition for Better Ads, which in conjunction with Google’s recent Chrome browser update promises to rid the world of annoying ads.
It won’t be easy for Scroll to gain traction, considering:
- The number of free ad blocking tools available,
- The growing number of subscription products consumers are already paying for, from the New York Times, to Spotify to CBS All Access. Haile said that Scroll is designed not to interfere with these offerings, nor confuse consumers.
- A number of noteworthy major publications have not signed on board, including investors like The New York Times and News Corp. (which publishes the Wall Street Journal) not to mention companies like Disney, NBCUniversal, Meredith or Hearst
Plus, there’s the fact that the world doesn’t know what Scroll is. Some publishers have agreed to promote the products, while others have not.
Haile acknowledged these challenges, and said he expects to sign on more publishers as the company’s reputation grows among consumers.
He’s also realistic about Scroll’s impact. This is not going to kill the banner ad overnight. And he doesn’t need to sign up the majority of the web population to be successful.
“The majority of people will still want free content with ads,” he said.
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