Slovak media organisations plan joint online paywall


SLOVAKIA’S leading media organisations have agreed on a new common paywall for their online offerings, charging users a €2.90 monthly flat fee for access.

Piano Media, a consultancy based in Bratislava, has convinced nine Slovak television companies and newspaper publishers to place their content behind the paywall in exchange for a share of the profit from subscriptions.

The start-up says it hopes to “change the paradigm” of web publishing for users – by providing a one-off registration – and for publishers by passing on valuable subscriber data crucial to attracting advertisers.

The project is based on the hope that, though used to free content, web users are not opposed to paying for quality news, information and entertainment.

“I think people will pay when it’s convenient,” said Thomas Bella, CEO of Piano Media. “At the moment it’s not very convenient to pay for each newspaper or even for a site if you just want to read one article.”

Piano Media, a privately owned company, draws its inspiration from cable television subscriptions, where users make one payment and profits are paid out behind the scenes to content providers.

After launching a two-week trial on Monday, Piano will begin charging for access from May.

Piano spent a year convincing most of the big media players in Slovakia to come on board. Participants include the most popular daily, SME; Pravda, the country’s oldest newspaper, and private television company TV JOJ. Also included are sports and business dailies and a news weekly.

The media organisations have agreed to provide limited content for a test phase before deciding whether to go behind the pay wall in full.

Already the radical business shift has sparked a lively discussion in Slovakia about freedom of information. But Mr Bella says he is not convinced about the dangers of putting information behind a pay wall.

“Information wants to be free but people are forgetting that it is not free as in beer but free as in freedom,” he said. “It shouldn’t just have a real price, but it should offer a choice of opinions. A lot of media are in a bad state and, if they went bankrupt there would be less opinion to choose from.”

Many newspapers and media organisations have experimented with paywalls, though with mixed results.

The New York Timeshas just introduced an online paywall for the second time.