Slovakia’s Paid Content System Funded For European Expansion

The shared paid content platform now underpinning many Slovakian online publishers could roll out elsewhere in Europe after its operator got the funding it was seeking for expansion.

Piano Media, which we first reported on in November 2010, is taking €300,000 ($408,930/£261,525) in first-round funding from local VC house Monogram Ventures for what Piano says is a near-€1 ($1.36/£0.87) million company valuation.

On May 2, nine major news and magazine publishers plugged parts of their sites in to Piano Media, a shared paid content system, which sees customers pay either €2.90 ($3.95/£2.53) per month, €0.99 ($1.35/£0.86) per week or €29 ($39.53/£25.28) per year for access to each of the sites together. Publishers share 70 percent of the revenue, balanced according to their respective traffic.

Since the spring, Piano’s operators have been angling to take it beyond just Slovakia, claiming interest from other countries. Now they have funding to help them do it.

The question is this – can what happens in the relatively small Slovakia be replicated in larger European countries? Piano made €40,000 ($54,524/£34,870) in its first month. That is small fry. But Piano’s operators say publishers consider that healthy in a country with an internet population of 2.5 million and GDP at 73 percent of the European Union average.

Piano’s efforts are happening alongside the emergence of several would-be paid content vendor platforms, each vying for publishers’ business. French newspapers now operate their joint ePresse Premium system, but Piano is relatively rare as a kiosk used by several competing publishers.

Bundled pricing is an approach some publishers have considered but not acted on, often for fear they would attract a cartel inquiry from competition authorities.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring Czech Republic, social media analytics firm Socialbakers has received $2 (£1.28) million in funding.