Forty-two Polish news sites push Piano’s ‘pay’ switch

Piano Media, the digital news payments kiosk through which several Slovenian and Slovakian publishers have begun charging for some of their content, is opening shop in its third country, Poland, as paidContent speculated last month.

Six publishers (Agora, Murator, Polskapresse, Media Regionalne, Edytor and Axel Springer-Ringier) are putting 10 to 15 percent of 26 national and regional news title and magazine content from 42 websites in to Piano. Consumers are asked to pay €4.90 per month for access to all participating outlets. But, although the bundle includes Agora’s newspaper, it does not include its popular portal.

According to the firm’s proposition:

“Some publishers will provide ad-free versions of their sites, while others will offer premium access to their content before it is released to the public or even offer exclusive material available only with a Piano subscription. A lot of content that has never been online before will now be available.”

Web news payments of all models must overturn consumer reluctance that, in many surveys, puts inclination to pay at around five percent.

Interest is growing in this shared kiosk approach in some European countries, where individual titles may struggle to sell digitally but where a joint approach may prove relatively successful – local-language news can effectively be ringfenced from English-language competition, whose market is saturated and treacherous. Dutch publishers are seeking a kiosk solution, Belgians recently launched their own GoPress.

Polish publishers are the latest to try charging users for news websites. Point Group‘s weekly news magazine Wprost started charging pay-as-you-go micropayments and for a short-term metered subscription plan in June. Politics news magazine Polityka began charging in April; its counterpart Przekroj did so in 2011. Dutch and Belgian publishers are examining a joint kiosk method, too.

How is Piano – just one of the vendors vying to facilitate worried publishers inclination to charge – faring? Piano claimed first-month sales of €40,000 ($50,000) in Slovakia and €26,000 ($33,000) in Slovenia but has not disclosed total active subscribers. Several major publishers have placed on average up to a tenth of their web content in to the independent system, which costs €3.90 per month in Slovakia and €4.89 in Slovenia. CEO Tomas Bella told our paidContent 2012 conference in May (video):

“Media which put in 20 to 30 percent of their content are at three, four, five percent of conversion to paying users.

“The best ones are getting 30 to 40 percent of their online revenues from this source after one year.”

» Can operators like Piano profit from charging for news in Europe? Let us know in the comments…