Piano Media is a digital subscription and content monetization company for the online publishing industry. After acquiring US-based Press+ in Sept. 2014 from RR Donnelley & Sons, Piano became the largest provider of metered paywalls worldwide with more than 630 websites in 17 countries using their software. Founded in 2010 by Etarget & Monogram Ventures, in 2012 the company raised €2M in series B funding from 3TS Capital. Piano specializes in systems integration of its cloud-based SaaS solution.
How the Piano Media Systems work
Piano's stand-alone turnkey solution is a metered paywall used by newspapers in the GateHouse Media group, M. DuMont Schauberg and Canada's Postmedia Network. This solution is the most popular paywall being used by the newspaper industry today because it allows Piano and the publisher to collect user data to drive revenue. Piano's national system, still in place in Slovakia and Poland works differently. On participating publisher's sites, a 60 pixel registration bar runs across the top of the site (below the menu bar in a reader's browser). The bar allows a reader to register and it shows the subscription status of the reader. If active, all locked content is fully accessible on the publisher's site. Readers pay a flat-fee, either weekly, monthly or yearly and to receive full, unfettered access to all participating media's content. Publisher's content remains on its websites rather than being pushed onto Piano's site. The payment window is java script served as a layer on the publisher's site, so there is no redirect of the user to a different payment site.
In the Piano National model participating publishers are compensated via a revenue share based on two items. A commission is paid to the site where the user purchased their subscription. There is also a volume component paid to publishers based on the time spent reading content across all participating publisher sites. “We will earn some money through the project which is better than nothing,” said Matus Kostolny, SME's editor-in-chief. As of March 2012, media earn monthly in average 1.1 eurocent per each visitor.
According to Matus Kostolny, only unique content is locked and the rest is free, which enables newspapers to keep traffic on the website. SME.sk also restricted comments under articles to 3 comments per user and day for readers without Piano. A Similar restriction was introduced in Pravda, but was later lifted.
History of Piano Media Systems
In the summer of 2010, Marcel Vašš, the CEO of ETarget, a targeted online media advertising company, was thinking about how to monetize major media content and invited Tomáš Bella, former deputy editor of Slovakia's bigger news portal SME and then a consultant at NextBig to help him flesh out the idea. The two came up with a plausible plan and were approached by an angel investor who agreed to provide first round funding to set up the project in Slovakia, do market research in the rest of Europe and lead Piano to a second round of funding.
The idea Vašš and Bella formulated was a cross between a micro-payment scheme and a cable TV subscription. Excellent contacts within the Slovak publishing industry  enabled the duo to quickly conclude pay-wall agreements with nine major Slovak publishers. On April 18, 2011 Piano's nationwide pay-wall went up, although as a free two-week trial. On May 2, 2011 Piano's pay-wall was erected. In September 2011 Piano received Series-A funding from Jan Jenča and Ivan Štefunko at Monogram Ventures. Piano is using the money to solidify their Slovak market share and expand into several other European countries. In January 2012 Piano Media expanded into Slovenia, bringing seven publishers into the common payment system. In April 2012 Piano secured €2 million in a Series B growth capital round from 3TS Capital Partners’ Technology in Central and Eastern Europe Fund S.C.A. SICAR. Piano will use the money to accelerate their growth world-wide.
July 2012 Piano Media launched its third national payment system in Poland, teaming up with seven publishers who put more than 42 different magazines, newspapers and the national radio station in Piano's system.
In November 2012 Piano assumed all the rights and some developers from the Austrian firm Novosense . The technology allowed Piano to introduce a new "metered pay-wall" which can be applied in conjunction with their national pay-wall model or separately.
In February 2013 Piano began licensing its technology to individual publishing houses. The solution known as "Piano Solo" has been licensed in Germany, Spain and the United States.
In Sept. 2014 Piano Media purchased Press+ making it the biggest paywall provider in the world.
Hopeful Subscriber Figures
Piano has been criticized for manipulated numbers claimed during paidContent conference. Its CEO Tomáš Bella expressed hope, that 1% of Slovak internet population would become subscribers. Piano estimated in 2011 the Slovak internet population to be 2.3 million people, but Eurostat 2011 and AIMmonitor (a service of IAB Slovakia) estimate 3.3 and 2.8 million people respectively.
In May 2014, Piano released subscriber and revenue details from the first three years of Slovak activity  to refute claims by blogger Rastislav Kuciak, that according to public accounts summary, Piano has 3,800 to 5,400 subscribers, that is much less than official estimation of 20,000 subscribers. Piano's CEO Bella objected, stating Piano has more subscribers than guessed at by bloggers, but did not supply additional details. Being privately held, Piano Media has never revealed subscriber or revenue figures.
Current participating publications in Slovakia
- Family of SME.sk
- SME – Slovakia's leading broadsheet newspaper; Piano restrictions were partially lifted in section komentare.sme.sk due to reduced number of readers
- Slovak Spectator – Slovakia's English Language weekly newspaper
- Korzar - Slovakia's largest regional newspaper covering eastern Slovakia
- Family of 7 Plus s.r.o.
- .tyždeň – Slovakia's weekly newsmagazine
- Hospodárske noviny – Slovakia's daily business newspaper
- Denník Šport – Slovakia's biggest sports newspaper
- Mediálne – A Slovak media business site run by Trend, a business weekly
- MeToo – Slovak video portal
- PC Revue – Slovak monthly IT magazine
- Huste.tv – video site owned by Slovakia's #2 TV station TV JOJ - they will soon introduce custom payment system
- Pravda - Slovakia's oldest daily broadsheet. Decided to leave on May 1, 2014.
Current participating publications in Slovenia until April 30, 2015
- Delo d.d. - daily broadsheet newspaper DELO and daily national tabloid Slovenske Novice
- Dnevnik d.d. - daily broadsheet newspaper Dnevnik
- ČZP Večer d.d. - Magazines: Kvadrati, 7dni, Naš dom, Bonbon and Podstresje
- Primorske Novice d.o.o. - Regional daily newspaper Primorske Novice
- Gorenjski Glas d.o.o. - Regional daily newspaper Gorenjski Glas
- Skupina Krater d.d. - Regional weekly Dolenjski List, Sports daily newspaper Ekipa, Car magazine Auto Bild
- Report d.o.o. - Tabloid news website Pozareport
- Nevtron & company d.o.o. - IT magazine Računalniške Novice
Current Participating Publications in Poland
- National Daily News: wyborcza.pl
- Lifestyle Magazines: poradnikdomowy.pl, czterykaty.pl, ladnydom.pl, e-ogrody.pl, magazyn-kuchnia.pl, logo24.pl
- National Daily News: se.pl
- National Sport News: gwizdek24.se.pl
- National Car News: superauto24.se.pl
- Lifestyle Magazines: muratordom.pl, poradnikzdrowie.pl, urzadzamy.pl, dlarodzinki.pl, mowimyjak.pl, wymarzonyogrod.pl, archirama.pl, muratorplus.pl
- National Daily News: polskatimes.pl
- Regional News: dziennikzachodzni.pl, kurierlubelski.pl, gazetawroclawska.pl, gazetakrakowska.pl, dzienniklodzki.pl, gloswielkopolski.pl, dziennikbaltycki.pl
- MEDIA REGIONALNE
- Regional Daily News: echodnia.eu, dziennikwschodni.pl, wspolczesna.pl, poranny.pl, gazetalubuska.pl, nto.pl, pomorska.pl, gs24.pl, gk24.pl, gp24.pl, nowiny24.pl, to.com.pl
- Regional News: gazetaolsztynska.pl
- Regional Portal: wm.pl
- RINGIER AXEL SPRINGER POLAND
- Business Magazine: forbes.pl
- POLSKIE RADIO
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- "Participating publications". Piano Media. Retrieved May 2, 2011.
- "AIMmonitor.sk". Association of Internet Media. Retrieved Feb 1, 2011.
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- "MeToo: multimediálna televízia". Metoo.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Pc Revue". ITnews.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- Prihlásenie. "Huste.tv". Huste.tv. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Piano sa rúca, Joj si spoplatní obsah vo vlastnej réžii". DSL.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- '+wine.name+'. "Pravda.sk". Pravda.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- Pravda.sk leaves system Piano (in Slovak)