If you want to run a news website, there are two main ways to pay the bills: ad revenue or subscriptions. Ads are the easier path, because it doesn't require the reader to sign up for anything, and you can pitch it as something that's free to use at any time. But with a small number of companies controlling the vast majority of the internet ad economy, more news publishers are turning to subscriptions to achieve long-term stability.
VentureBeat reports that Mozilla, the makers of Firefox (download for iOS or Android), is joining the fray as a partner of Scroll, an imminent platform that will offer subscriptions to multiple news sites in exchange for an ad-free experience. Other partners include The Atlantic, Gizmodo, Slate, Talking Points Memo, USA Today and The Verge.
The Scroll service is currently priced at $5 a month, though it's invite-only for now. You can request an invite on the official website. In addition to removing ads, Scroll can also let you pause your reading on one device and resume on another, and it offers a text-to-speech option for hands-free use, such as when you're behind the wheel.
Mozilla has been opposed to ad trackers for some time, a stark departure from market leader Google Chrome (download for iOS or Android), which does not accommodate advertiser filtering of any kind on mobile devices. Like Facebook, the overwhelming majority of Google's income is from ad revenue, from which it collected over $100 billion in 2017.
The Scroll initiative also comes in the midst of Apple's not-so-secret plan to unveil a similar news platform, which came to light nearly one year ago in a report from Bloomberg. Apple has been customarily secretive about its plans, but potential publishing partners indicate that the company intends to take a 50 percent cut of subscription revenue, and that isn't going over well.
Regardless, subscription services are on the rise across a variety of media, particularly with streaming video. While Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video have been stalwarts, recent months have seen announcements from mammoths like NBCUniversal and Disney, both of whom plan to launch their services within the next year.
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Meanwhile, Apple itself has been investing relatively vast sums to produce original content for its own as-yet unannounced video streaming competitor.
But while the video streaming ecosystem is starting to look a little crowded, the frontier for news subscription partnerships is still emerging; 2019 will probably be the year where we find out if such projects can truly succeed.
- VentureBeat reports that Mozilla is joining Scroll, which is a subscription service that will offer multiple news websites ad-free for $5 a month. Scroll is currently invite-only.
- Scroll's partners include The Atlantic, Gizmodo, Slate, Talking Points Memo, USA Today, and The Verge.
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