September 15, 2014

E-commerce platforms Press+ and Piano Media merge

E-commerce platforms Press+, based in the U.S., and Piano Media, based in Europe, announced a merger on Monday that will effectively create what Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab calls the largest paywall tech company, by far.

According to The New York Times, the post-merger company will be headed by Kelly Leach, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal Europe, and will operate under the Piano name.

The paywall sect of the e-commerce industry is young—forerunners Press+ and Piano Media were founded in 2009 and 2010, respectively. As a result, "both companies are in the red," reports Nieman Lab contributor Ken Doctor, since they have had to make significant investments so recently. "But not by a lot, and efficiencies gained by the merger should help on the road to profitability."

A paywall, as explained by Mashable, is a system that prevents Internet users from accessing webpage content without having to pay for it. Paywalls are typically used by publications such as newspapers, magazines and scholarly journals, and were popularized as a result of what many thought was the death rattle of American newspapers in 2009.

Whether or not the paywall tactic would prove profitable, however, was unknown at the time. In May of 2009, The Guardian published a story titled, "The paywall is history." But contrary to the projections of many, the paywall lives on and continues to evolve.

In November 2013, Doctor wrote: "We're clearly on the cusp of a new understanding of consumers' willingness to pay for digital news and feature products," adding that paywall systems have inspired content providers to price more aggressively. If that trend continues, this technology merger could prove to boost the profitability of both now-conjoined companies.