by Garret Ean
Jan 16 2012
In the eastern European nation of Slovenia earlier today, a paywall was erected engrossing many of the most prolific digital media distributors. Piano Media, a Slovakian paywall service corporation, has convinced nine publishers and twelve websites to adopt a shared paywall, which will cost subscribers €2 for a weekly pass.
The model for Piano’s cartelization of media is similar to that of television subscriptions. At present, more people are abandoning cable and satellite live programming for the boundless information frontier provided by the internet. Few subscription services have fared well in the purge caused by the internet, with a notable exception being the growth seen by Netflix. Piano’s model divides subscription profits with the companies participating in the paywall, giving 70% of the revenue to media distributors and keeping thirty cents on the dollar for itself. It measures traffic among clients and based on where more traffic is channeled, Piano compensates the company.
Delo, Slovenia’s largest publication, plans to put about 10% of its content behind the wall, keeping the remaining content free so as to keep constant its web traffic. In Slovakia, media giant SME has approximately 5% of its content paywalled at the moment.
It was last April that the Slovakian paywall was launched by Piano, about the same time that our hometown newspaper’s website was paywalled off. In the first nation to see its media restricted en mass this way, marketplace isolation aided the endeavor in being sustainable. With limited resources in the formerly communist republic, and the Slovak language spoken only in that region, incorporating so many of the nation’s publications into the project cornered the market, and gave consumers no alternative. Similarly, paywalling the major Slovene language publications corners that nation’s market.
Such a mass paywall project has potential in the United States, but with such diverse market variety in English language media, the more comprehensive paywall project emerging in eastern Europe would be less likely to catch on here. Paywalls in the United States have most often been limited to individual publications, not networks of media distributors. Though many major cities’ newsprints are owned by a handful of companies, it is possible that a coordinated paywalling effort would result in the potentially illegal sharing of copyrighted newsprint. There’s even market potential, if such a restriction was to be imposed on this very computer literate market, for the business of interpreting paywalled information. Based off of the sheer traffic a free site will get with similar content to a paywalled site, a business could copy all of the major stories from behind paywalls and change just enough detail so as not to tread the murky waters of copyright infringement. Only with state-imposed copyright restrictions may we see such a concept as a bootleg newspaper.
Extradition over copying
Richard O’Dwyer, a resident of the UK who has never before been on US soil, is being extradited by the ‘royal’ government to the US to face charges that he linked through his website to copyrighted material hosted on other websites. In three years, he allegedly made $230,000 in advertising revenue through his site and used the funds for his college tuition.