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How can publishers drive more revenue, besides ads? Firefox and Scroll team up to test a new model

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A cleaner web experience for users, yet one that is profitable for publishers… that’s the idea behind a new initiative launched by Mozilla and Scroll, the Firefox Better Web with Scroll. It combines the tracking protection built into Firefox with the ad-free browsing experience offered by Scroll. 

“We know that publishers are getting the short end of the stick in the current online ad ecosystem,” notes Mozilla’s official communiqué on the launch. “We’ve combined Firefox and Scroll’s growing network of ad-free sites to offer users a fast and private web experience that we believe can be our future.”

Firefox Better Web essentially builds Scroll into a package of tools that Mozilla offers as a test pilot. It’s a browser extension that attempts to disrupt the current ad-revenue model by directly funding publishers, while providing users an ad-free experience, with fewer trackers, faster page loads, and increased security.

For publishers seeing their ad revenue crater amid coronavirus, Scroll’s pitch of a paid ad-free experience sounds awfully appealing.

Sarah Scire, Nieman Journalism Lab

“We have always loved Mozilla’s focus on the idea that a better web is possible,” said Tony Haile, CEO of Scroll. “Finding new funding models for the web has never been more vital and we’re proud to be working with them to make the internet a faster, more private and better place to be.”

The membership is currently $2.50 per month with a risk-free trial for 48 hours. This is a 50% discount for the first six months, and it goes directly to fund publishers and writers. 

Your membership is paid directly to the publishers in Scroll’s network based on the content you read,” says Mozilla’s Matt Grimes. “Our hope is that the success of this model will demonstrate to publishers the value of having a more direct, uncluttered connection to their online audience.”

Publishers are paid a percentage of users’ monthly payments based on the proportion of time that they spend on each site.

In early tests we’ve found that sites make at least 40% more money than they would have made from showing you ads.

Matt Grimes, Mozilla

“The deal with Mozilla should get Scroll a much larger userbase, but neither company would disclose any financial terms,” says Dieter Bohn, Executive Editor for The Verge. “Scroll takes a 30 percent cut of your subscription fee and pays the rest out to its partner publishers.”

“Over the last year, we’ve had the chance to run multiple tests to explore new revenue models for the web based around the idea that user experience comes first. Those tests performed even better than we hoped,” Scroll announced

“After the initial free trial, 18.5% of trial members started paying for a membership, against an industry benchmark of 3-4%. In short, a surprising number of people wanted a better web and liked funding the sites they cared about.”

For users, this is how the browsing experience changes with the Firefox Better Web extension:

Scroll is just the latest in a long line of attempts to get users to directly pay for visiting websites without asking them to sign up for a million different subscriptions or worry about convoluted micropayment systems. It does seem to have more momentum than earlier efforts.

Dieter Bohn, Executive Editor for The Verge

The Firefox Better Web initiative is still in beta, and is currently available to US desktop users only. Publishers who want to join the initiative will have to contact Scroll to see how this funding model can drive more revenue.