Last week on Twitter I read that Union Square Ventures was leading a round of funding for a company called Scroll. I’d never heard of Scroll (it hasn’t officially launched), but after reading USV’s announcement I can’t stop thinking about them. Scroll will sell ad-free, subscription-based access to some of the biggest News Publishers in the U.S. (USA Today, The Verge, Vox, and more) for $4.99 a month.
What excites me about Scroll is that it’s NOT an App or Aggregator, but a ‘Facilitator.’ When you subscribe to Scroll you go to the participating publisher sites and read without the ads. Scroll believes its would-be customers are already using ad-blockers, and by sharing subscription revenue they are introducing a new monetization opportunity.
I love this model. For consumers, it harnesses the power of the open web and how they actually use it. So no walled gardens (and the associated misinformation and filter-bubbles) and a transaction model that actually values their time and privacy. For publishers, it eases the tension in allowing an aggregator to distribute your content. As I’ve written previously, the aggregator and the publisher often share the same business model and monetize users in the same way – through their attention. But this is where Scrolls turns that upside down. They aren’t trying to keep customers on their platform (there isn’t one!), they’re incentivizing customers to use the publisher’s platform. And then actually paying the publisher for that usage.
So much of what makes a successful product comes down to timing. Given the state of the internet, the timing seems perfect for Scroll. Can’t wait until launch.