Slovak firm PianoMedia will launch content-sharing subscription network based on unique valuation method -- time

Marcel Vass, CEO, eTarget

A Slovakian-based Internet advertising firm is seeking to gather Eastern European publishers and launch early next year a multi-site news service which will pool subscription revenues, then disburse and share them based on a unique parameter – time.

The service, called PianoMedia, hopes to launch March 1 first in Slovakia. It will be run in partnership with a Czech Republic consultancy called NextBig ( ) PianoMedia is the result of a chance discussion between one of Slovakia’s most prominent national editors and a former tractor salesman who now heads a company selling pay-for-click advertising in nine central European nations in competition with Google.
“The basic idea is to first make one payment system for all important content on the whole Slovak internet, then expand gradually to other countries, starting with the Czech Republic,” says Marcel Vass, CEO of eTarget, (pictured, above left) the 40-employee online advertising network services company which Marcel says has 6,000 partners and serves over 15 billion Internet ads per month to users in the nine nations.
Tomas Bella, PianoMedia collaboratorVass linked up in early 2010 with Tomas Bella, (pictured, right) who was editor-in-chief of the most popular news site in Slovakia, SME. Bella left to start the NextBig consultancy in Prague. Bella says the payment pool that will reward publishers will comprise some 60 percent of what consumers pay to subscribe. The first 40 percent will go to the home-base publisher of the user. In addition, PianoMedia will take an undetermined amount from the remaining 60 percent before distribution to cover operating and profiting from the service.
Vass says the system will work by asking each content publisher to include software on their website, according to Vass. Bella says adding the software might take a publisher a few days of technical work. The software will then recognize consumer users who are subscribed to the system, giving subscriber access to forums, photos, videos and other forms of unique, premium content not available to free users.
The success of PianoMedia is based on this premise, says Vass: Consumers are unlikely to subscribed to multiple websites with different accounts. “But they will pay for a single service,” he adds. “We will collect 100 web services or more and we believe this collection will be big enough that it will really make sense to people to pay for that.”
Additional software running on PianoMedia’s servers will be able to determine how long a user visits a given website, and will log their activity. If, for example, a user spends 30 seconds reading an article and then moves on, that “visit” would be valued at less than a visit in which a user spent two minutes looking at something. Periodically, perhaps monthly, the subscription revenues collected by Piano will be apportioned to participating publishers based on the aggregate time users have spent on their sites.
Bella hopes the time-based system will be seen as “not perfectly accurate but there is the same amount of unfairness for all sites.” Allowing websites to set their own pricing would be too complicated a system to start with, he adds. “Maybe in one or two years we may be forced to move in a direction of differentiating the content and letting the media have the ability to differentiate in the value of the services. We have to start very, very simply and I frankly don’t know what will happen in a year or two.”
Vass says factors which might adjust the value of time spent could in theory depend on things like the type of resource – text or video for example. And the software might also be able to identify when a user’s mouse or other pointing device is moving -- as another indicator of engagement. Vass says the system would not require end users to download any permanent software. He says time or movement measurements can be monitored by JavaScript code running temporarily within a downloaded page or resource.
All users will be registered by and will pay PianoMedia. But Vass says “they will believe they are making a subscription to their favorite website.” Registration can be directly via the Piano website, or via a publisher’s website. Marcel also thinks Internet service providers could grow to become the most important source of subscribed users.
Vass, 37, joined eTarget four years ago after studying sales and marketing at the Economic University of Bratislava and an early career selling tractors in Europe for John Deere & Co., and working for a small Internet service provider started by his brother and the co-founder of eTarget. In November, 2009, eTarget was purchased by Central European Media & Publishing (CEMP). CEMP is a Hungarian-based online publisher of business and opinion websites, an online bookstore and social network.
Vass says PianoMedia is unrelated to eTarget’s advertising network. “It will be absolutely new and fresh and a new source of revenue for the publishers,” he says.