The online news payment system introduced across Slovenian and Slovakian publishers in May and February wants to launch in three more countries this year.
Piano Media, which gives access to 70 sites across the two countries for a single fee, aims to be in 19 countries by 2014, founder TomáÅ¡ Bella told The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit in this excellent quick presentation on Wednesday.
So far, Piano has made relative peanuts – €40,000 in Slovakia and €26,000 in Slovenia in their first respective months – explaining that these are relatively small countries with low internet populations.
“The third country we will launch in has tens of millions of internet users,” Bella said.
“We are 20 people – we might be 50 by the end of the year.”
By Bella’s maths, those small early returns could pay dividends for publishers: “In the first month, you can afford 25 to 40 journalists.”
Piano’s trick of aggregating rival publishers in a single bundle like cable TV is a feat which may be difficult to repeat in larger markets, where publishers are super-competitive toward each other and where “cartel” fears might discourage publisher interest. “In Slovakia, we made sure they never meet in the same room,” Bella joked.
None of the participating publishers have used Piano to make their sites paid in their entirety; only sections representing a small percentage of total content have become chargeable.
There is no shortage of paid content platforms being touted to increasingly receptive publishers nowadays. The Piano platform took funding late last year for this global expansion. Now we will get to see if Piano is a locally-specific phenomenon or whether it can be replicated elsewhere.