Many say that the attention economy is toxic; others say that the Internet is broken. Social media manipulate emotions. Advertising is more and more intrusive. Your data have been used and abused without you knowing when, where and how — all true. The attention economy needs to correct.
See the positive news here. Fixing the broken Internet can be the biggest business opportunity of the new decade for media makers, tech developers and forward-looking publishers.
Tony Hayle, working to make the Internet a better place for news.
Tony Haile – the former founder of Chartbeat – is one of these. Scroll is his solution to make a better Internet: less dependent on ads, with a better reader experience and sustainable business models that reward quality content, not clickbait.
What is Scroll?
Scroll is a subscription-based system that integrates with a network of news websites (300 at launch and growing) to allow its members to navigate those sites 100% ad-free and with cross-device, improved user experience.
The 4,99 USD monthly fee is used to pay back publishers in proportion to the reading time spent on each of them. Thus, it rewards quality engagement and is 100% transparent on how fees are shared: readers themselves can get a report at the end of each month showing how much of their subscription went to which publisher.
But, what is the value proposition for users? Is Scroll a kind of paid-for adblocker? Or something more?
Scroll starts from the growing frustration due to bad ads but goes beyond that.
It provides a user experience made for mobile and cross-device consumption, with super-fast loading pages, access across all mediums and ability to restart each article from where you stopped reading it (desktop to mobile, mobile to desktop).
The cherry on the cake: every article is available also for listening, with state-of-the-art text-to-speech technology. You can read. You can listen. You can stop and restart from any device. The most frictionless experience you might want…
Value for money and well-done maths.
…and that for a monthly fee that is lower than the most news subscriptions. The business maths say that publishers would be happy with their kickbacks. Once the network is mature, so the calculation, publishers can expect revenues between 25-45 USD per thousand pageviews: that is much higher than the 5-20 USD they can get selling ads for the same number of pages.
That seems magic.
Yes, it is. Scroll develops a solution for more problems and yet does not cannibalize the publishers´ current ad business: for making that happen, the customer base should be super big. Scroll is not an exponential business, but one that aims to grow steadily by making happier a large group of casual readers: the ones that are sick of bad ads but would not by subscriptions for all the news sites they visit.
Yet, it seems able to trigger a virtuous circle of growth: the more publishing partners get on board, the more appealing is Scroll to potential users. The more readers join, the more publishers get rewarded and willing to go into a paid-for publishing business. The more publishers ➡️ the more choice ➡️ the more value for money for readers.
That can work pretty well.
Is Scroll the future of the ad-free, paid-for Internet?
It depends a lot from the publishing partners. Partner marketing direct to their readers will be crucial.
The system works if all parts cooperate in educating users, communicating and marketing the solution as a better alternative to ad blocker (and all people testing Scroll said yes, it is much better). No need for typical start-up-like growth hacking. But a big need for getting buy-in from a large pool of publishers, as a valuable complement to their subscription strategies.
To get some of them among the Series-A investors under the lead of Union Square Ventures was already a great start: Samsung Next, Bertelsmann, Gannett, Axel Springer, The New York Times are top names and a good omen.