Scroll wants to offer an ad-free internet for $5 a month

Great for publishers, not so great for the poor.

Scroll is a new subscription service that’ll let users browse the websites of Scroll partners with the ads stripped out for $5 a month. Scroll keeps $1.50 of that month fee and then splits the rest between publishers on its platform. How much each outlet gets depends on their share of eyeballs.

Transparency, and a delete option — To its credit, as The Verge points out, Scroll’s being extremely candid about showing users and publishers where time is being spent. It’s also making its terms of service, tracking practices and other pertinent info readily available to users, and even concedes that if it’s acquired, its trove of user data on reader behaviour will belong to its new overlords. To that end, though, there’s a fairly prominent delete button.

Bring your own browser — Unlike rival Apple News that’s tied to Apple Hardware and a proprietary app, Scroll works with every device and every browser (though some, like Safari, require a plug-in). It’s great not having to add another app to our phones or tablets, or worry about what happens if we decide to move from one mobile operating system’s camp to another.

Still another poor tax, though — As the number of subscriptions content makers want us to add to our monthly expenses mounts, and YouTube gets ever more insistent that we should cough up for Premium, it becomes increasingly clear that ads are a tax that poor people have to pay to access content. Sure, you can choose to use free Spotify, budget Hulu and stick to the ad-supported, non-paywalled internet, but if you want exclusive content or to be saved from the life-stealing tyranny of adverts, you’re going to have to fork over something eventually.

But better than ad-blockers — If, like us, you believe publishers deserve to get paid for their efforts, and that an independent press is one of the keystones of a robust democracy, Scroll is a good option. It’s better than ad-blockers because it actually ensures revenue for content creators, and it’s better than tipping services or platform-based services because of its transparency. Will it save modern media? Probably not. But it might help keep the lights on until we can find the thing that will.