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Q&A: Piano Media CFO on charging for content

Piano Media CFO Ján Cifra is speaking at our next event: Perfecting the Freemium Model on 12 September. Jan Cifra CFO Piano Media Alongside wired.co.uk Media Columnist Peter Kirwan, Spotify VP for Europe Chris Maples and Autosport Publisher Rob Aherne, Jan will discuss freemium models for publishers, paid content and micropayment strategies. Find out more / Book your place – free for publisher members. Can you briefly explain Piano Media’s approach to freemium & paid content? Publishers who don't have experience with charging for online content are often reluctant to embrace it on their own - and Piano Media offers a more dynamic group approach by country.   There is often severe apprehension that page views will be negatively impacted and therefore online advertising revenues will decline – this is where freemium comes in.   Prior to launching in each new market, Piano conducts a detailed analysis of online content on every web service to be included in the package. The analysis is comprised of quantitative and qualitative research to identify the 10-15% of the website content that can be charged for. Since Piano Media already has more than 12 months of live data from our national content payment systems in Slovakia and Slovenia, we can also apply our learning there to the  in order to recommend the most appropriate content for monetisation. We also contribute to the promotion and marketing of paid content systems allowing publishers to focus on producing content while we act as a strategic partner for online subscriptions and analysis of user behavior. You launched this month in your biggest market yet – Poland – what are the learnings so far? User registrations have quintupled since our publishing partners began locking content on August 7th. Registered users are now accessing more than 119 different sections across 42 websites, including a lot of new content that publishers have only put online since they started using the Piano system. More important than pre-registrations of course will be the number of paying subscribers once we commence payment for paid content in early September.  But the numbers so far are highly encouraging. What do you say to publishers who feel they are selling themselves short by joining a ‘group payment system’ for content instead of launching their own? Piano Media's model is based on convenience. The basic premise being that users on the internet don’t want to pay for multiple online subscriptions - they would rather have ‘one login / one payment’ for a portfolio of web services - emulating cable TV pricing. From the publisher perspective, Piano's system is easy to adopt, transparent and fair. There is no upfront licensing fee for the software and the revenue share model is based on where the user purchases the subscription combined with where the user spends time reading paid content. Additionally, Piano's approach is not to close entire websites, but to identify and close the premium unique content that has a loyal following. This partial closure of a website is crucial to maintaining page views and online ad sales, so the system can augment existing online revenues and avoid potential cannibalisation. Finally, some titles simply don’t have the brand to launch their own payment system. The FT, the NYT, the WSJ - yes, the Washington Times, the Bergen County Record, the Sacramento Bee - no.

Jan is speaking at our next forum on 12 September - find out more about this event / Book your place – free for publisher members.