Mozilla Tests Ad-Free News Subscription to Fix Advertising Ecosystem
In collaboration with Scroll, venture capitalists and publishing partners
In partnership with Scroll, investors and publishing partners, Mozilla may compete against Apple News Plus soon, offering an ad-free news subscription service for $4.99 a month, reports BGR. In addition to charging half the cost of the new Apple News Plus, the Scroll news subscription service offers readers some cool features. For example, when readers start an article on a laptop or phone, mobile or desktop, and switch devices later, Scroll will save the reader’s spot. This is true regardless of where the article is discovered, whether through Reddit, Twitter or another app.
Readers who access articles on partner sites will also enjoy an ad-free experience. Some of Scroll’s partners include:
- The Atlantic
- AV Club
- BuzzFeed News
- The Onion
- SB Nation
- USA Today
- The Verge
The Scroll site explains how this new ad-free experience will benefit both readers and publishers:
“Better for you, better for journalism. When you visit sites in Scroll’s network, publishers earn more than they would from advertising. More money means more journalists writing stories you want to read – it’s a critical loop,” says Scroll.
In the midst of its beta testing, Scroll eagerly shares its mission with potential subscribers:
“Mounting pressure for fewer ad dollars is forcing media companies to compromise their content experience for revenue. More interstitials, more pre-rolls, slower page loads.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Scroll is a consumer service powering an ad-free web that rewards great user experience and funds essential journalism,” writes Scroll.
Supporters and investors, including venture capitalists and media companies, in the Scroll project include:
- Axel Springer
- Founder Collective
- The New York Times
- News Corp
- Samsung NEXT
- Uncork Capital
- Union Square Ventures
It is not clear how this will work or what Scroll’s revenue share with publishers will be. It is also not clear what Mozilla’s partnership with Scroll looks like or how directly Mozilla will be involved in the ad-free news product. Mozilla, the funder of the Firefox browser and other open source products, is after all a nonprofit. Mozilla has, however, been vocal about the need for a new funding mechanism on the web.
In a February 25, 2019 blog post, Mozilla’s Peter Dolanjski wrote the following:
“The online advertising ecosystem is broken. The majority of digital advertising revenue is going to a small handful of companies, leaving other publishers with scraps. Meanwhile users are on the receiving end of terrible experiences and pervasive tracking designed to get them to click on ads or share even more personal data,” said Dolanjski.
“Earlier this month, we shared our perspective about the need to find a better web ecosystem balance that puts publishers and users at the center of the online value exchange. For users, we began our efforts with curbing pervasive tracking as we believe that this is necessary to protect privacy as a fundamental human right. For publishers, we believe that these same measures will help shift long-term ecosystem incentives which are currently stripping value from publishers and fueling rampant ad fraud. However, it is important to acknowledge that such change can take time and that publishers are hurting today,” Dolanjski added.
He went on to say that Mozilla will explore alternatives openly and transparently, including its partnership with Scroll. He explained Scroll this way:
“Scroll is a consumer service powering an ad-free web that rewards great user experience and funds essential journalism. The service enables web users to pay for an ad-free experience on their favorite sites, across their devices. By enabling more direct funding of publishers, Scroll’s model may offer a compelling alternative in the ecosystem. We will be collaborating with Scroll to better understand consumer attitudes and interest towards an ad-free experience on the web as part of an alternative funding model,” said Dolanjski.
Mozilla is doing its part by asking potential subscribers to complete a brief survey to see how willing they are or might be to subscribe to such a service. The first screen readers will see is this, which is somewhat misleading, because the ad-free news product is not yet available:
The survey looks like this:
Not interested in taking the survey? Hop over to Scroll up to sign up for email updates.
It is too soon to speculate as to the success of such a product, but there is clearly enough interest to finding a better way to compensate publishers fairly for their work. From the publisher’s side, the digital advertising model and prevalence of ad fraud are huge challenges. From a reader’s perspective, people are tired of intrusive ads, tracking cookies, and a user experience that is so cluttered that it is difficult to find and read content uninterrupted. I would pay $4.99 a month in a heartbeat if there were enough quality news publishers involved. I am eager to learn more as Scroll moves forward with its testing. Sign me up!