Twitter’s acquisition continues today with Scroll, a $ 5 per month subscription service that removes ads from participating news sites (including The edge). Twitter is building out a new kind of subscription that will include Scroll, the recently acquired Revue newsletter service, and other homegrown Twitter services. In a blog post announcing the deal, Scroll CEO Tony Haile said one of the reasons he sold his company is that “Twitter’s ambitions are greater than people suspect.”
The Scroll service is an ingenious hack that uses third-party cookies or browser extensions to tell websites not to show you ads. It’s not an ad blocker per se, but instead sends some of your subscription money to the participating websites you visit. Now that it is being taken over by Twitter, it is no longer accepting new signups – although nothing is expected to change for existing customers any time soon.
That is not the case for another Scroll service, Nuzzel, which will be phasing out. Nuzzles sends out emails daily of the top stories shared by people in your Twitter feed and as such was loved by a small number of very online news consumers. Twitter says it will “bring the core elements of Nuzzle straight to Twitter over time.” The service will be discontinued on May 6.
It’s a bit difficult to predict what exactly Twitter is planning to do with Scroll. Twitter is definitely building a subscription service that will curate a ton of services, but what exactly will be included, what it will cost, and who will share in the revenue is only known to Twitter (assuming it has a long-term vision, which wasn’t a good one until recently. guess).
In his announcement post, VP of product Mike Park refers to Twitter’s plans by suggesting that it will integrate Scroll directly into a more comprehensive subscription that will send partial chunks of money to Revue newsletter writers:
To do this, we plan to include Scroll as part of an upcoming subscription offering that we are currently exploring. As a Twitter subscriber, you get access to premium features that make it easy to read articles from your favorite news channel or a newsletter of Revue, with a portion of your subscription going to the publishers and writers who create the content.
Scroll claims that its users send more money to news sites through its subscriptions than through its ad views. Applying such a model to independent newsletter writers would be a whole new set of incentives for media outlets to worry about.
Another option is a service that is, in a way, competitive with Apple News. Rather than the web tech hack that stops browser-level ads, it could be a feature in the Twitter app itself – or even a future news-reading app. You could read that from Park’s statement: “We want to rethink what [Scroll has] built to provide a seamless reading experience for our hyper-engaged audience. “
In other words, Twitter wants to capitalize on its central place in the online lives of many journalists and news dogs. Haile writes that he hopes Scroll will make Twitter “a great gathering of people who love the news and pay to support it sustainably. ”
I asked Twitter if it could be more specific and in an email statement, a spokesperson wrote, “No details to share as we are still in the early stages, but hoping to share more on these types of offers later this year.”
The possibilities for combining individual subscriptions, bundles and news-reading experiences are enormous. Big is great, but specific will be better. Twitter will do everything it can to put together a coherent service and then explain it to potential users.