As publishers face their next existential crisis, there are so many options to choose from, including Substack which robs all of their writers; or Clubhouse drawing people in through audio conversations where news and analysis seamlessly intertwines with networking – a startup that helps them create more tools to keep their businesses and audiences intact, and hopefully. the, to develop, announces a cycle of growth in its own right.
Piano, which provides analytics and subscription services to publishers, closed an $ 88 million round, funding it will use to continue to develop the technology it provides to its customers, as well as to grow. launch into new areas where it can better connect online audiences.
The funding follows a strong period for Piano. The company works with approximately 1,000 clients, including CNBC, Wall Street Journal, NBC Sports, Insider, The Economist, Gannett, Le Parisien, Nielsen, MIT Technology Review, The Telegraph, South China Morning Post and (disclaimer) TechCrunch; and he has seen his income increase by 400% since 2019.
Piano has an interesting new funder in this cycle that could indicate what shape these new areas of development might take. LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social networking site for the workplace, is participating in this C Series, which is led by previous backer Updata Partners. Rittenhouse Ventures, which is based in Philadelphia, Piano’s hometown, is also participating.
(Piano does not disclose a valuation with this round, but I understand that it is currently operating at an annual rate of $ 75 million. It has now raised just over $ 134 million.)
Piano CEO Trevor Kaufman wouldn’t wonder how he will work specifically with LinkedIn, but it should be noted that the latter company has long refrained from exploiting the profiles it holds of its 740 million users to make a lot outside the core. LinkedIn experience.
This could be applied in several ways, for example in the same way as Facebook and Google connections to third party sites; or to provide an identity layer for commenting on stories; or even create a way to manage connections through a LinkedIn profile, which could then be used to help people manage and read / consume all the content they subscribe to. Or something entirely different: LinkedIn has a lot of unrealized potential that Piano could help tap into.
âMembers are increasingly turning to LinkedIn to stay informed about the news and perspectives shaping their respective industries. A declaration. âThe opportunity to work with Piano to help unlock more value for publisher content on LinkedIn makes this a natural strategic investment opportunity. “
Over the past year, many of us have spent a lot more time indoors, and for a number of us that has also meant more reading, especially smaller, more digestible formats such as periodicals. In a way, it is not surprising that models like the one in Substack have emerged and apparently flourished during this period, where writers are looking for different approaches and ways to connect with readers while editors in all keep their costs and their strategies to weather the storm.
The rise of Piano in this context is particularly interesting, because in many cases it is not a question of reinventing the wheel for publishers but of providing them with the tools to better take advantage of the production of content that they are. already have in place. What is remarkable is that in the process he was able to capitalize on the changing sentiments in the publishing industry. While paywalls and subscriptions were in the past seen as a brake on traffic (and the advertisements that are sold against it) and only useful for those in the B2B world, they are now becoming more and more common in a wide range. wider parameters. , Kaufman said.
Piano’s tools are notable not only as basic levers for managing subscriptions (free and paid), but also as a set of more sophisticated analyzes that provide more insight into how content is read. , which in turn can be used to develop those subscription levels and determine the likelihood of people signing up (Nieman Lab has a good article on how this works here).
To add to this, another area where Piano is likely to develop more products is in newsletters. No, not like Substack, but creating tools for publishers to help them build newsletter businesses that they can monetize if they want to. Indeed, the other type of newsletter is far from being on Piano’s agenda.
âI can’t imagine an entity more damaging to journalism than Substack,â Kaufman told me. âI think it got a lot of attention from writers because it’s a fantasy come true for journalists, this idea that you can make $ 500,000 a year for writing occasionally. But nothing can be further from the truth. He believes the model is so âpumped up with venture capital fundingâ that it is unsustainable in the long run.
That remains to be seen, I guess, and of course Piano has a vested interest in supporting its publisher clients. What this mainly tells me is that there are still a few rounds left in this game, and maybe other games in a longer streak.
The company may also embark on more mergers and acquisitions, given the fragmentation of the space for audience development, analysis and measurement. In March of this year, the company acquired AT Internet, a French company, to better manage and analyze analytics across a number of silos, including traffic, advertising, subscriptions, engagement and more.
âPiano’s recent growth has been exceptional, and we continue to be impressed with the growing set of capabilities they bring to media companies and brands looking to generate more revenue from their audiences,â said Jon Seeber, Managing Partner at Updata Partners and Piano Board Member, in a statement, âThey now have a true end-to-end platform that can power all aspects of the customer journey, empowering their customers integrate only the highest quality data from all touchpoints to create the best experiences for users. “