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Slovak news sites to erect paywall

THE SLOVAK print media is looking for ways to increase its income and force readers to pay for online content. Now, various print outlets are joining together under a single umbrella, and readers of Slovak news websites could face a payment barrier to access some content as early as April, the Sme daily wrote in early February. Under this unique premium content payment scheme, known as Piano, a reader will get access to parts of some websites only after paying a monthly or weekly charge.

THE SLOVAK print media is looking for ways to increase its income and force readers to pay for online content. Now, various print outlets are joining together under a single umbrella, and readers of Slovak news websites could face a payment barrier to access some content as early as April, the Sme daily wrote in early February. Under this unique premium content payment scheme, known as Piano, a reader will get access to parts of some websites only after paying a monthly or weekly charge.

“The Piano model will be very similar to the model for cable TV stations,” Tomáš Bella from NextBig company, the head of the Piano project, told the Hospodárske Noviny financial daily. “For one monthly payment you will get access to a large amount of content from various competing media. Simultaneously, a large portion of the content, especially general news, will remain free.”



To begin with, readers will pay only to use certain services. Bella estimates that 5-15 percent of internet users will end up paying for content. The monthly fee should be €2.90 and the weekly fee €0.90. Payment methods will be extensive, ranging from text messages, bank cards and internet banking to PayPal, and charges could later be included on invoices from internet service providers.

Bella also sees the Piano scheme as a route to better journalism.

Contrary to users of Facebook, authors of texts at news and media websites expect payments from publishers when costs of content at these websites are, in the better case only a little smaller than revenues from advertising.

“If people are not satisfied with the quality of Slovak journalism, the reason is not that the media do not want to produce better-quality content, but they mostly cannot afford to,” Sme quoted Bella as saying. Bella is a former editor-in-chief of Sme.sk, the online version of the Sme daily. He added that without sharing costs for production of the content with readers an increase in quality is impossible.

PC Revue and Trend magazines have confirmed to Sme that they intend to join the scheme along with Sme.sk. The dailies Hospodárske Noviny, Pravda and Nový Čas have also expressed interest in the idea. Sme plans to put some of its commentaries and part of its tv.sme.sk content behind the paywall. It is believed that consumers who often take part in online discussions will also pay.

The project's website, www.pianomedia.sk, is already online and it is available in English as well.


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