Stile over wall

Publishers will be encouraging readers over Slovenia's national paywall, which launches today

Credit: Dreamer, via Wikimedia Commons
A national paywall is today being erected in Slovenia with nine publishers, the owners of 12 different brands and websites, participating, including the majority of the country's major newspapers.

It is the second country to adopt a group model after Slovak media adopted a national wall in April 2011.

Readers will pay £4-a-month to access paywalled content and be able to move between the various sites' premium areas and all participating publishers will benefit from the shared revenue.

Piano Media, the Slovakia-based company which has set up the two national paywalls, has taken a conservative approach, building a model where publishers start by putting a small percentage of their content behind the joint wall.

The publishers of Delo, Slovenia's largest daily newspaper, will place around 10 per cent of its content in the paid-for area; Slovakia's largest publisher has 3 per cent of its content behind the wall.

Journalism.co.uk has spoken to three Slovene publishers – the country's largest daily newspaper, a regional title and a magazine – on their expectations for the joint paywall.

What type of content is worth paying for?

Delo, Slovenia's largest national daily, "has taken a holistic approach to customer experience when dealing with paid content strategy," Estera Lah Poljak, deputy marketing director and project manager of Delo's paid content project, told Journalism.co.uk, explaining that the Piano system is just one of the options that its paid content strategy involves.

We believe that, in the near future, paid digital content will be treated and broadly accepted as the paid print edition model has always beenTanja Robič, Primorske
"We will be very careful as to what content we offer our paying users and how we create value for those users.

"We will start with a very soft approach in order to get the users familiar with the model. Because our approach is based on different types of audience that access our websites, heavier users and people interested in deeper stories and exclusive content will mainly notice the change while the occasional user will still be able to access the portals freely."

Delo's approach is to allow "each editorial department to choose the appropriate content based on their editorial strategy".

For both Delo and sister tabloid site Slovenske Novice "this will, at some level, be unique and additional editorial content, such as exclusive stories, comment pieces, interviews and features from supplements", Polijak explained.

"The focus will be on exclusivity and adding value for the heavier, loyal users which are interested in deeper analysis and coverage from our brands."

Regional daily newspaper from the Primorska region of Slovenia Primorske is initially putting around 10 per cent of its content behind the wall.

Content worth paying for in Primorske's eyes is "exclusive information which is currently published in print editions only",  chief marketing officer Tanja Robič explained.

That includes regional news, crime reports, the opinion section, sport, plus supplements such as health and the TV guide.

IT magazine and website Računalniške Novice will be putting around 15 per cent of its content behind the wall, including news, tips and a PDF version of the magazine, Mitja Pritznik, the title's editor explained.

Great expectations

Speaking to the publishers ahead of the launch, they all seemed confident that the paywall would work in Slovenia.

"Research performed in cooperation with Piano showed that in Slovenia heavier users are supportive, accepting and willing to pay for premium content and these are the users that we will be targeting," Poljak from Delo, Slovenia's largest daily newspaper explained.

"The Slovak experience is promising and I believe that model will work also in Slovenia. The great benefit is that all major newspapers have joined this project simultaneously, Robič said.

"We are convinced that we have formed the right pricing policy which will attract website visitors.

"For the readers the model has a lot of benefits, mostly in affordable prices and easy access to all other digital editions with only one subscription and the access account."

Delo is "making a strong effort to clearly communicate changes to readers".

Paid content topics are 'hot' throughout the world and this discussion is no different in Slovenia as everyone is watching and waiting to see the next moveEstera Lah Poljak, Delo
"We are also making sure that an efficient customer service will be available for each of our users who may have any questions regarding the changes," Poljak said.

"The free access model is not acceptable anymore", Robič said. "The younger generation of readers is focused on the internet as a primary information source and we believe that, in the near future, paid digital content will be treated and broadly accepted as the paid print edition model has always been."

Asked whether the regional was convinced from the outset of the proposition, Robič explained that "doubts vanished" after Piano Media showed them evidence from Slovakia.

"When you know that you have to do something and you understand that free editorial content is not the future, you're more sensitive for the new business models and propositions.

"A little bit of healthy scepticism at the beginning of the project just forced us to analyse all details before the decision.

"We publishers are proud of our brands and the content on our sites."

As Poljak summarised: "Paid content topics are 'hot' throughout the world and this discussion is no different in Slovenia as everyone is watching and waiting to see the next move.

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