Differentiated user experiences are a cornerstone of the defensible businesses that USV has invested in for over 10 years. In the most recent articulation of our thesis – 3.0 – we also stressed experiences and trusted brands that expand access to, for example, knowledge. Trusted services are those that have business models that better align the interests of businesses and their customers.
What would such an experience and aligned business model look like in the world of online publishing, that to date feels like it has replicated the offline model in a way that is cumbersome and decreases consumer value through clunky and increasingly invasive experiences? One that was resolutely consumer first by being clean, fast, and safe. One that wouldn’t require users to change how they access content in order to benefit from the experience. And one that did not use a paywall.
Scroll is a consumer and publisher service that satisfies these criteria by providing frictionless access to content by removing all ads and ancillary content, making pages clean and fast. It is no surprise that a specific user experience was the focal entry point for this company – the founding team’s background includes Chartbeat, Foursquare, Spotify and Google (some of those companies we have previously founded and backed). USV is excited to be leading Scroll’s Series A financing, announced today, and joined by Samsung Next, Bertelsmann, Gannett, Axel Springer, The New York Times and Uncork Capital.
Scroll is a vastly better way to read or watch, across multiple channels – an open platform that puts consumers in control by offering bundled access (for $4.99 a month) to ad-free and mobile-friendly experiences on content sites around the world. When you visit a Scroll partner, that site automatically delivers an experience with no interruptive ads, pre-rolls, or links to baldness cures at the bottom of articles. Users control their own data through an API, and they can decide what they want to do with it – from requesting their data be anonymized to sharing their history with other services. Using mobile apps like Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn or Facebook or just reading in Chrome, Scroll seamlessly syncs content across devices and is format-agnostic. One can start reading an article on a laptop, continue on a phone on the subway, and then finish as an audio story in a car.
Dozens of publishers are currently part of the network, including Buzzfeed, Vox Media, MSNBC, Business Insider, The Atlantic, Slate, Fusion Media Group, The Daily Beast and more. We believe this model empowers, not disintermediates, publishers by giving them an important choice in addition to their ad-supported business. As important, publishers using Scroll will make more money than using an ad-only model.
Now, more than ever, we need an Internet that feels built for us and a free press able to thrive. Scroll firmly believes in this vision, and USV does too.