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Jan. 9, 2012, 9 a.m.

Slovakia’s national ‘pay curtain’ expands to Slovenia

Most major media outlets in Slovenia will erect a unified paywall, mimicking an experiment in nearby Slovakia.

Piano Media, the company that introduced a unified paywall for all major media in Slovakia last year, is expanding to Slovenia.

Eight Slovene media companies are participating — a group that includes nearly all of the nation’s major daily newspapers, a car magazine, a sports daily, two regional publications, and even a free city newspaper. A subscription to all of the content will cost €4.89 ($6.21) per month, two euros more expensive than the package in Slovakia. Users can opt to pay weekly (€1.99) or yearly (€48.90), but that’s as complex as the pricing gets.

Publishers get to choose what content goes behind the paywall and what remains free. They can also elect to make users pay for premium features, such as commenting, access to archives, or ad-free browsing.

The Slovak paywall generated more than €40,000 in its debut month of May 2011, the company said, which was split with publishers 70/30, Apple-style. We playfully dubbed it “the new Iron Curtain” — and the metaphor seems to hold up now, as Piano expects to reach three more European markets by year’s end. The company says it is negotiating with publishers in 11 countries.

Like Slovakia, Slovenia is a relatively small, monolingual country. The company estimates 1.3 million Slovenes, or 65 percent of the population, are online; about half of those read news on the web. It will be interesting to see how a national paywall might work in much larger European countries with more media choices. Would the non-participating media siphon users who don’t want to pay?

When we talked last year, Piano CEO Tomas Bella told me he hoped to change the attitudes of consumers accustomed to years of free riding. The company offered the simplicity of a single login and a single monthly bill. As he told me then: “We don’t think it’s a problem of people refusing to pay — we don’t think it’s a problem of money. It’s a problem of convenience.”

Photo of Slovenia’s Julian Alps by Christian Mehlführer used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Jan. 9, 2012, 9 a.m.
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