Tony Haile has a big idea. It's his second big idea, but he believes it will be bigger than the first one.
The 40-year-old founder of Chartbeat Inc., one of the established standards in analytics in the media trade, left his now-eight-year-old company last year to focus on what has become Scroll.
You'll hear a lot about Scroll into early 2018, as its product launches in beta as the year begins. What is Scroll? It's not the easiest news product to explain -- and in that may lie difficulty -- but take it in initially as an ad-free iTunes for news.
That's an old idea in the news trade, going back to industry heavyweights such as The New York Times (NYT) , The Washington Post, Hearst Corp., Tribune Co. and others forming the New Century Network more than 20 years ago. That idea never really got off the ground.
Meanwhile, those in the news trade have seen business aggregation plays such as Netflix Inc. (NFLX) , Hulu LLC, Spotify Ltd., Pandora Media Inc. (P) , Texture (for magazines) and Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iTunes itself come along, but they have never developed, or seen, a model that they believed could become a win-win situation for them. That was true when they believed that the free and open web would drive digital ad riches for them as well as in the past half-decade, when they've seen digital subscriptions as their potential salvation.
The big difficulty: figuring out a value proposition that would work for both paying readers and for the publishers.
"Your first order of problems is the actual price itself," New York-based Haile said. "You've got to be able to distribute enough cash, at an industry level which can beat the opportunity cost of revenue. These people have to make more money from this than they would have from advertising. Which, thankfully, is increasingly easy to do."
Tony Haile believes he's accomplished that feat -- with a suitable-for-all pricing and payment formula behind it -- and he's persuaded some big names to put a little money behind it. Haile has raised $3.1 million to get off the ground with News Corp. (NWSA) , New York Times Co. and Axel Springer SE, among the seven seed funders. Scroll, which has a seven-member team in New York and Portland, Ore., is now signing up premium publishers to be part of his launch, and at least one major newspaper chain and one large digital-only news company have agreed to be there at launch.
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