Piano Media is Europe's leading digital subscription and content monetization company for the online publishing industry. 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. More than 27 media houses license its software in Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and the United States.
How the Piano Media Systems work
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. However, this is not accurate, as SME.sk restricted also 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.
Overestimated Subscriber Figures
Piano has been criticized for manipulated numbers claimed during paidContent conference. Its CEO Tomáš Bella expressed, that 1% of Slovak internet population are subscribers. However, Piano estimates 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.
Blogger Rastislav Kuciak estimated, 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.
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
- 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
- van Blommestein, Michiel (Sep 4, 2012). "Read all about it – if you have a credit card: Poland's great paywall gamble kicks off". ZDNet.
- Kuciak, Rastislav (August 17, 2012). "Piano: First figures, first disappointment". Blog.Sme.sk.
- Beaujon, Andrew (July 18, 2012). "Why Piano Media is Worth Watching". Poynter.
- Phelps, Andrew (July 19, 2012). "Wielki sukces! Piano Media expands its national paywall model to Poland". Nieman Journalism Labs.
- Andrews, Robert (July 18, 2012). "Forty-two Polish News Sites Push Piano's Pay Switch". paidcontent.org.
- Clayton, Nick (July 19, 2012). "Piano Media Brings National Media Paywall to Poland". Wall St. Journal.
- Baker, William (Feb 14, 2012). "A National Paywall that Works". The Columbia Journalism Review.
- "Another brick in the wall". The Economist. October 8, 2011.
- Cienski, Jan (October 6, 2011). "An internet paywall for all". Financial Times.
- Pfanner, Eric (April 24, 2011). "In Slovakia, News Outlets Take Cue From Cable". The New York Times.
- "Slovak media goes behind paywall". BBC. May 7, 2011.
- Rousek, Leos (April 27, 2011). "Slovak Entrepreneurs to Test Charging for News Online". The Wall Street Journal.
- Villapadierna, Ramiro (May 12, 2011). "La prensa eslovaca lanza un modelo pionero de pago de contenidos "on line"". ABC (in Spanish).
- Doctor, Ken (October 20, 2011). "The newsonomics of Piano Media". Nieman Foundation for Journalism.
- Mutter, Alan (June 22, 2011). "How to sell content by making it easy to buy". blog:Newsosaur. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
- Greenslade, Roy (June 20, 2011). "Piano paywall takes €40k in Slovakia". The Guardian.
- "Slovak Publishers Generate Record Revenues" (Press release). Piano Media. June 20, 2011. Retrieved October 27, 2011.[dead link]
- Gillette, Felix (August 25, 2011). "Online Media: The Great Pay Wall of Slovakia". Bloomberg Businessweek.
- "Piano médiám prináša len 1.1 centu na návštevníka za mesiac". DSL.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- Tomek, Radoslav; Schweizer, Kristen (May 12, 2011). "Slovak Media Follow Murdoch by Pushing Online Paywall Plan". Bloomberg.
- "Piano dostalo ďalší úder, Pravda vyňala z Piana diskusie". DSL.sk. 2012-02-04. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- 1. februára 2012 10:00. "Pravda.sk uvoľňuje debaty zo siete Piano - Pravda.sk". Spravy.pravda.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Tomas Bella". LinkedIn.
- Media, Piano (Sep 29, 2011). "PIANO MEDIA a.s. ANNOUNCES €300,000 IN SERIES A FUNDING TO ACCELERATE EUROPEAN GROWTH". Piano Media.[dead link]
- Media, Piano (Jan 11, 2012). "Piano Media Expands Into Slovenia". Piano Media.[dead link]
- Invest IQ (23 April 2012). "Piano Strikes A €2 Million Chord With 3TS". Invest IQ.
- Media, Piano (July 18, 2012). "Polish Media to Launch Piano’s Online National Paid-Content System". Piano Media.
- Media, Piano (Oct 30, 2012). "Piano Media Acquires Advanced Audience Identification Technology, Introduces Piano Solo". Piano Media.
- "Piano v zahraničí tvrdí, že má cca 20 tisíc predplatiteľov a v SR používajú Internet len 2 milióny". DSL.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Statistics in focus" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Aimmonitor: 04 2012". iabslovakia.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- Rastislav Kuciak. "Piano: Prvé čísla, prvé sklamanie? Blog - Rastislav Kuciak (blog.sme.sk)". Rastislavkuciak.blog.sme.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Piano v roku 2011: Výrazná strata, 5 400 predplatiteľov - Živé.sk". Zive.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- Autor: Filip Hanker (2012-10-06). "Šéf Piana: Máme oveľa viac predplatiteľov, než sa zdá z uzávierky - Živé.sk". Zive.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Participating publications". Piano Media. Retrieved May 2, 2011.
- "AIMmonitor.sk". Association of Internet Media. Retrieved Feb 1, 2011.
- "SME začalo upúšťať od blokovania obsahu Pianom". DSL.sk. 2011-11-13. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Home - The Slovak Spectator". Spectator.sme.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Korzár na webe. Najlepšie spravodajstvo z východného Slovenska". Korzar.sme.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Časopis Plus 7 dní" (in Slovak). Pluska.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Pluska, správy zo sveta šoubiznisu, z domova, zo zahraničia, ekonomiky" (in Slovak). Pluska.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Týždeň - iný pohľad na spoločnosť". Tyzden.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Všetky médiá | Mediálne.sk - vedieť vidieť". Medialne.etrend.sk. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "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)