Summary:

Nine of Slovakia’s main media operators are about to introduce a shared “paywall” service.

Its three national broadsheet newspapers, a tabl…

Stack Of Newspapers On Table
photo: Corbis / Dirk Rees

Nine of Slovakia’s main media operators are about to introduce a shared “paywall” service.

Its three national broadsheet newspapers, a tabloid, a TV station and two magazines will, from May 2, introduce services supported by Project Piano, a nascent industry-wide paid content technology which we wrote about in November.

Project Piano will charge readers €2.90 ($4.14/£2.54) per month or €0.99 ($1.41/£0.87) per week to access multiple news sites from across Slovakia and, eventually perhaps, the neighbouring Czech Republic, giving participating publishers 70 percent of the take; Piano is left with five to 10 percent after bank and mobile operator fees. The system will be introduced on April 18 for free for two weeks.

“We expect that, one year after the launch, between 0.8 percent (pessimistic) and 1.5 percent (realistic) of the local Internet population will subscribe,” Project Piano CEO TomáÅ¡ Bella tells paidContent:UK. “The upper limit for a system like this could be somewhere between five and 15 percent of the internet population in any country, in a five- to seven-year timeframe.”

In Slovakia, 4.06 million people amongst the 5.7 million population are internet users (source: CIA World Fact Book). The small market could be a testbed for paid content initiatives elsewhere. In the UK, taxpayer money is being used to help media owners test micropayment methods.

At the optimistic end of Bella’s forecasts, we calculate Piano would have 60,945 monthly subscribers, yielding about €2.1 ($3/£1.84) million per year in total fees before commission. Piano has publishers on board on six-month contracts. If Slovakia goes well for Piano, Bella claims to have an angel investor lined up to sell the service globally.

Piano is a joint venture between Prague-based media consultancy NextBig and continental PPC ad targeting house Etarget. Bella is formerly editor-in-chief of the daily SME.sk newspaper site and now NextBig’s owner.

Who’s in?

The triallists are…
Hospodarske noviny (daily business paper)
Pravda (Slovakia’s oldest daily)
Dennik Sport (a sport paper)
Tyzden (weekly magazine)
Medialne.sk (a media business site run by Trend, a business weekly)
MeToo.sk (video portal)
PC Revue (monthly IT magazine)
Due to be signed…
SME (leading broadsheet paper)
JOJ and huste.tv (Slovakia’s #2 TV station and video site)

Paying for what?

“There is kind of a consensus about commentary and opinions sections – all three broadsheets are putting all of those articles behind the paywall,” Bella says

“Most will also ask readers to pay for the ability to comment on articles, though some will let readers write one or two comments a day for free.

“Some will offer ad-free versions of their sites.

“A business-oriented daily will leave its forums with financial advice free for reading, but only paying users will be allowed to ask questions. Another daily will do the same with its health-oriented forum.

“The Sport will ask readers to pay to access the stories from its print edition between 12am to 8am, then leave them free til midnight. Medialne.sk, which writes about the media industry, is closing all the stories except for two to three per day, but will open the archive after 14 days.”

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