Jan 28, 2020

Scroll's big launch day is here

Former Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for AWXI

Former Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile will finally launch his new venture-backed news upstart on Tuesday called Scroll.

The big picture. Scroll is meant to solve two problems at the same time: It’s supposed to bring in more revenue for publishers while also giving users who hate ads a better internet experience.

How it works: Scroll asks users to pay a $5 monthly fee for access to websites they already use but are scrubbed of all ads. The business model hinges on the idea that with that user revenue, Scroll can send its partner-publishers more money per user than they would make per user while serving them ads.

  • Scroll directly integrates into the sites themselves via a javascript code, Haile tells Axios. The site is then able to recognize when a Scroll member visits, and then it can deliver that member an ad-free experience.
  • Scroll tracks user engagement and loyalty and then distributes to publishers a fee based on the share of time and loyalty they take from a Scroll subscriber.

Why it matters: Haile says that on average, it makes $46 for every 1000 impressions served to a user across its network right now. That's significantly higher than what most publishers charge for ads today.

  • "Even though members pay out more than ads, they're not going to cannibalize publishers' direct sold businesses," Haile says.
  • "Most publishers have a <80% sell-through rate on directly sold (ad inventory) and so we'd have to get super big before we come close to touching that."

Details: According to Haile, more than 300 sites are on board, including USA Today, Buzzfeed, Business Insider, The Atlantic, Slate, Salon, Vox, The Verge, Gizmodo and metro sites like the Philadelphia Inquirer.

  • Scroll is also meant to help users access sites ubiquitously across all mediums.
  • Every single story across the Scroll network will be available to Scroll members in audio, as well as text. "The notion of a better Internet is that it doesn't care about the dive device or app, if you read or listen, it just works."
  • Because Scroll sites are stripped of ads, they also load much faster for users.

Be smart: Haile designed Scroll so that it doesn't step on publishers' existing businesses, incentivizing them to participate.

  • Because of this, some publishers, like Salon, are marketing Scroll to their users directly when they visit their sites as an incentive to get more money from them than they would if that user were using an ad blocker.

Our thought bubble: Scroll is unique and solves a problem for publishers that hasn't been cracked yet.

  • It allows publishers to offer free website visitors that are putting up ad blockers something else instead that's still way cheaper than having to buy a subscription with fewer ads.

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

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