Gannett, which owns USA TODAY and 109 local news properties, said Thursday it is investing and partnering with Scroll, an online platform that gives subscribers ad-free viewing to a bundle of content from news and media sites.
The McLean, Va.-headquartered media company joins Scroll’s other media partners and investors including The New York Times, News Corp., MSNBC, The Atlantic, Slate, Business Insider and Fusion Media, which includes sites such as The Root, Gizmodo, Deadspin and The Onion.
Announced two years ago, Scroll is a media software platform designed to give subscribers advertising-free perusal of media sites on mobile devices and computers.
The project is expected to begin a beta test in the second quarter and launch later this year.
Described as “an iTunes for news” by media analyst Ken Doctor on TheStreet.com, Scroll could offer publishers another solution beyond advertising to generate revenue in a time when digital ads often fall short of supplanting print advertising and circulation revenues, which are on the decline.
“We’re excited to be both investing and partnering with Scroll to provide another option for consumers to interact with and pay for our trusted, high-quality journalism,” said Gannett CEO Robert Dickey in a statement.
Gannett did not announce the size of its investment in Scroll.
A $4.99 monthly subscription to Scroll would gain users access to a collection of news content from the partner sites. But it would not replace news sites’ current subscription offerings.
For example, if you are a Scroll subscriber who is not a subscriber to The New York Times, you would get five ad-free articles. Times subscribers would get unlimited ad-free articles. Scroll would make it easy to become subscribers.
“Our mission is frictionless access to a thriving free press so anything we can do to help remove friction for a user while driving revenue to publishers is important,” said Tony Haile, co-founder and CEO of Scroll, in an interview.
Scroll wouldn’t funnel partner sites’ content through another app, but instead would work behind the scenes to let users see articles without ads. “Scroll doesn’t ask consumers to change anything about their behavior,” he said. “They discover content in the way they normally would, whether it’s through the Facebook app, Twitter or on a homepage. When they visit the site, the site recognizes them as a Scroll subscriber and delivers a clean, fast ad-free experience.”
The founding CEO of online publishing analytics company Chartbeat, Haile launched Scroll with Sachin Doshi, former vice president of Content at Spotify, and Kushal Dave, the former head of consumer engineering at Foursquare.
With Scroll, publishers could make “more money than they would have made from advertising in every scenario,” Haile says in a blog post on the announcement.
Other partners with Scroll include The Philadelphia Inquirer and Talking Points Memo. And Scroll is seeking additional ones as it approaches its launch (you can sign up to test Scroll when its available at Scroll.com.)
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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